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"OSS* ■***"" 

• Soyyid Muhammad ftizv» 

Marriage and Morals 
in Islam 

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi 

Preface to the First Edition 
Preface to the Second Edition 

A. Why this book? 

B. Sex education. 

Chapter One 

A. Christian Sexual Morality. 

B. The Victorian Era. 

C. The Sexual Revolution. 

Chapter Two 



A. Defining the Islamic View. 

1. Marriage is Highly Recommended. 

2. Celibacy & Monasticism is Forbidden. 

3. Marriage Helps in Spirituality. 

B. Defending the Islamic View. 

I . Mernissi 1 s Views. 

(a) Women are considered sexually active in Islam. 

(b) Women are a danger to the social order. 

(c) There should be no emotional investment in women. 

(d) Love should be exclusively devoted to Allah. 

2. Al-Ghazali' s Views. 

3. Love for God vis-a-vis Love for this World. 

C. Criterion of Moral & Immoral. 

1 . Regulating Sex by Morality. 

2. Islam and Personal Freedom. 

Chapter Three 



A. The Beginning of Sexual Life. 

1. Bulugh & Rushd. 

2. What Should the Youths Do? 

B. Handling Sexual Urge Before Marriage? 

1. I mmoral Ways. 

(a) Pre-Marital Sex 

(b) Masturbation. 

(c) Homosexuality 

2. Lawful Temporary Ways. 

(a) Temporary Abstinence. 

(b) Temporary Marriage (Mut'a). 

C. Marriage. 

1. Whom Can You Marry? 

(a) Restrictions based on Relationships. 

(b) Restrictions based on Religion. 

2. Some Often Asked Questions. 

3. The 'Aqd. 

4. The Time of Marriage. 

(a) When to Marry? 

(b) The Wedding Night. 

5. Days & Times for Sex. 

6. Sexual Techniques. 

(a) Foreplay. 

(b) Techniques of Foreplay. 

(c) Sexual Intercourse. 

(d) Anal I ntercourse. 

(e) Decency and Privacy. 

Chapter Four 


A. Introduction. 

B. When Does Pregnancy Begin? 

1 . Criteria of Shar'i Definitions. 

2. The Shar'i Pregnancy. 

C. The Contraceptives Methods. 

D. Abortion. 

Chapter Five 



A. Human Reproduction Techniques. 

1. Artificial Insemination by Husband. 

2. Artificial Insemination by Donor. 

3. In Vitro Fertilization. 

4. Other Possibilities in Human Reproduction discussed by Our 'Ulama'. 
5. Surrogate Motherhood. 

B. Some Ethical Questions. 

1. Destroying the Extra Fertilized Ova. 

2. Frozen Embryos. 

Appendix I: Sources of the Shari'ah. 

Appendix II: The Major Ablution: Ghusl J anabat. 



Preface to the First Edition 

This book is the result of a need which I sensed after my first three years in Canada. A 
person in my position as a religious guide is always confronted by people with questions 
related to their religious and personal problems. Unlike the atmosphere in the East where the 
contact is more on a personal level, the contact in this part of the world is more through 
correspondence and telephone calls. I soon realized that whenever the question was 
'embarrassing' or related to sexual behavior, the caller would prefer not to give his or her 
name. And, of course, I had no reason to insist on knowing the identity of the callers; my 
only duty is to listen and convey the Islamic view to those who seek. 

However, what was most interesting about these 'embarrassing' questions was that in 
majority of cases the callers were feeling guilty for actions that were absolutely permissible 
in Islam. But because of their ignorance or misinformation, they had been feeling guilty for 
things which were not at all forbidden in the Islamic shari'ah. And I said to myself: There 
must be many more people out there who are going through similar experience, feeling guilty 
and depressed; and all this because of ignorance! Not all have the courage to talk on such 
issues or even call without revealing their identity. And so I decided that I have to do 

I started writing on the sexual morality of Islam. This was in 1986. When I finished the 
initial draft, I thought that the material might be considered too controversial, and so I 
decided to test the water before publishing the book. A lecture on 'Sex and Marriage in Islam' 
was organized on November 9, 1986 at the Shi'a Muslim Community Center in Vancouver. 
The vast majority of the community members responded very positively. A lady from the 
audience wrote a letter which expresses the reaction of the majority. She wrote: 

"Thank you very much for the excellent lecture you delivered us on Sunday, November 9th. I 
must say that you are very brave and you presented the material with great calmness and 
poise. So far we have never had a Maulana who shared such an invaluable knowledge to 
educate our community... From my own experience, your educative lecture has clarified 
many doubts as to what is allowed in our shari'ah..." 

Later on I came to know that the video cassette of the lecture was sent to different places as 
far as England and East Africa. Since I had mentioned in the video that this is the draft of a 
forth-coming book, I started getting inquiries about it. The response further encouraged me 

to go ahead with the publication of the book. However, the publication was, unfortunately, 
delayed for three years because of my involvement in some other activities. During the last 
months of 1989, Almighty Allah blessed me with the opportunity to finalize the book. While 
finalizing the book, I started adding many discussions which eventually doubled the size of 
the initial draft of 1986 and increased its academic value. This, I hope, will redeem me in the 
eyes of my readers for the three years delay. 

* * * 

Chapter One gives a short historical review of the Western sexual morality. This sets the tone 
for the next chapter which presents the basic view of Islam on marriage and sex. In this 
chapter, I have also critically reviewed the ideas of an Arab feminist, Fatima Mernissi, on 
woman's sexuality in Islam. The remaining three chapters deal with the practical aspects of 
marriage: sexual relations; contraceptives and abortion; and new techniques in human 

* * * 

In the last three chapters of the book, the reader will find a variety of opinions among the 
Shi'ah mujtahids. ( Mujtahids means jurists, the experts of Islamic laws.) The difference of 
opinion is an essential part of ijtihad which is still a live institution in Shi'ah Islam. I have 
also clearly given the opinions of the most high-ranking Shi'ah mujtahids of our time, in 
particular Ayatullah al-'uzma Sayyid Abu '1-Qasim al-Musawi al-Khu’i and the late Ayatullah 
al-'uzma al-Imam Sayyid Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khumayni. 

However, I must clarify at the very outset that there are some issues on which the present 
writer has given his own opinions. This has been done mostly in those cases where the 
present mujtahids have no opinion. In any case, since all the views have been mentioned 
clearly, the muqallidin (followers) of the present mujtahids can use this book without any 
concern about the validity of their actions. 

I hope this book will receive even better reception than the video of 1986; and I pray to 
Allah, subhanahuwa ta 'ala, to guide me to the best of opinions and accept this work as a 
small contribution towards serving Islam. Inna rabbi la Sami'u 'd-du'a. 

S. M. Rizvi 
Richmond, B.C. 

Jamadi II 1410 
January 1990 

Preface to the Second Edition 

The first edition (1990) of this book was very well received by the readers around the globe. 
It was reprinted in Iran by a publisher whose foreign language publications are distributed all 
over the world. Its excerpts have been published in magazines in India, South Africa and also 
in Norwegian language. In 1993, Mr. M. H. Assagaf translated Marriage & Morals in Islam 
into Indonesian, a language used, according to him "by the people of Indonesia (170 million), 
Malaysia, Brunei and parts of Singapore and Thailand." 

In 1993, 1 revised and expanded the previous edition. Besides correcting the spelling 
mistakes and minor changes and additions to the text and footnotes, two sub-sections "Whom 
Can You Marry?" and "The 'Aqd" were added in Chapter Three, and the section on "Sources 
of the Shari' ah" was moved from the Introduction to the end of the book as Appendix 1. 1 
have also added a section on "The Major Ablution: Ghusl Janabat" as Appendix II. 

I hope this edition proves more useful to the seekers of truth. Wa ma tawfiqi ilia bi 'l-lah. 

Jamadil, 1415 
October 1994 
S. M. Rizvi 
Toronto, Canada 



WRITERS do not normally have to justify their subject. If they think that what they are 
writing will be useful to the people in their practical life or in their intellectual pursuit, then 
they feel no need to justify their work. The present book has both qualities: it is useful and of 
intellectual interest. But there are many people, even among the Muslims, who think that sex 
is a taboo subject in all religions. Therefore, it is very appropriate to begin with the question: 
Is discussion of sexual morality allowed in Islam? 

To answer this question one has to look at the definition of religion from the Islamic point of 
view. Anyone who has studied Islam even on surface can easily know that "religion" in 
Islamic definition is "a complete system of life" which covers all aspects of human life from 
the day a person is conceived up to the day he or she is laid in grave. Islam is not only 
concerned with the spiritual upliftment of human beings, it is equally concerned about their 
material and physical well-being. Islam guides its followers in financial and economic 
matters, in social and political affairs, and also in moral and personal spheres of human life. 
In moral and personal matters, Islam has specific dietary guide-lines, hygienic rules, dress 
codes, and also rules about marriage, divorce and inheritance. The Islamic laws of marriage 
do not stop at how to marry and whom to marry, it also deals with the sexual morality of 
human beings. This sexual morality, as we shall see in the following chapters, has been 
discussed in the Qur'an, and by the Prophet and his Ahlu'l-bayt very thoroughly and openly. 
Thus there should be no doubt in the mind of anyone about the permission Islam has given 
for open discussion of sexual morality. 

This was about the basic permission which Islam has given to discuss the sexual morality. 
But this explanation will not be enough for some people who will confront me with the next 
question: "Is it necessary to discuss sex?" 

There are three reasons for the necessity of discussing sexual morality. The first reason 
applies to all Muslims and the other two reasons are relevant to the Muslims in the Western 
world who are the primary audience of this book. 

Firstly, all Muslims agree that it is the duty of every Muslim to follow the shari'ah Islamic 
laws; and the laws of Islam are not confined to prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, and other ritual 
acts. The shari'ah has specific rules about sex also. Therefore, if a Muslim wants to follow 
Islam fully, then he or she must know the sexual morality of Islam, just as he or she must 

learn how to perform the daily prayers. 

Secondly, the necessity of learning the Islamic sexual morality for the Muslims who are 
exposed to the New Sexual Morality of the West cannot be over-emphasized. At present, the 
propagandists of the new sexual morality are presenting their ideas through all the available 
means of communication: books, magazines, television, movies and videos. The Muslims in 
the Western world are, in one way or another, exposed to the unlslamic sexual norms of the 
West. (This is an understatement; in reality even the Muslims in the East are exposed to the 
Western culture! ) Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for them to know the Islamic views 
about sex so they may live an Islamic life. 

Thirdly, children in the Western world have excess to sex education to an extent 
unimaginable by the previous generation, and therefore, it is very important for today's 
parents to be aware of the right and the wrong in this subject. Only an informed Muslim 
parent will be able to face this problem correctly and responsibly. These reasons should be a 
sufficient justification for this book to those who, in the Qur'anic expression, have 'a heart or 
give ear with a present mind.' 


The third reason given above does not necessarily mean that I am in total agreement with the 
way sex education is handled in the Western school systems. I have no problem with the 
basic ideas that children should be educated about sex. However, I disagree with the age at 
which sex education begins and with its contents. This issue by itself deserves a detailed 
discussion which is beyond the scope of my present study. Nonetheless, I will briefly 
mention my thoughts on these two issues. 


Sex education should begin in mid-teens when the children become sexually mature. The aim 
of sex education at this level should be to help them in understanding that they are 
responsible and accountable for using their sexual organs. They should be taught how to deal 
with sexual tension. (However, by looking at the proportionally high level of child sexual 
abuse in the Western world [which reflects the degree of its moral decay], I am prepared to 
accept those programs for young children which aim at educating them as how to protect 
themselves from sexual abuse. But this, in my view, is not sex education and therefore would 
not apply to our present discussion.) 


In this permissive society, the emphasis on sex education is more on preventing unwanted 
pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. No serious attempt is made in making the 
youngsters aware of the virtue of chastity and abstinence till they get married. This is not just 
because the Western society is a secular, liberal society, it is also related to its consumer- 

orientated economy. If sex education means only how to prevent unwanted pregnancy and 
sexually transmitted diseases, then the students learn nothing but the importance of using 
pills, condoms and other contraceptive devices. In other words, such sex education is nothing 
but a promotional program for the manufacturers of contraceptive aids ! Germaine Greer, a 
famous feminist, wrote about promoting contraceptives in the Third world as follows, "The 
sex reformers, who exhibit no respect for traditional values and address themselves to 
sexuality without interest in or comprehension of the whole personality, are the bawds of 
capitalism." (Greer, Sex and Destiny, p. 219) I totally agree with her not only in relation to 
the third world but even in case of the sex education in the West. The reason why sex 
educators are under pressure not to talk about the natural methods of birth control is not only 
because such methods are not hundred percent reliable (otherwise, even the condoms are not 
hundred percent reliable!), the real reason seems to be that if natural methods (like coitus 
interrupts or abstinence) which involve no expense become more popular, then who will buy 
the condoms and the pills? 

In short I agree with the necessity of sex education for youngsters provided it exhibits respect 
for their religious and moral values, and addresses the issue comprehensively and not just 
end up as a promotional program for 'the bawds of capitalism'. 

Chapter One 


The Western Sexual Morality 

Is sex inherently evil? A Muslim would be surprised by this question. Such a thought would 
never cross his mind. But the relevance of this question to Christianity and the Western 
world will become clear from the following pages. In the last eighty years, especially after 
the two World Wars, the sexual morality of the West has undergone a great change which is 
commonly described as the "sexual revolution. " On the ruins of the dying Christian 
morality, the west is trying to build a liberal sexual morality known as the "New Sexual 
Morality". To understand the social and historical background in which the new morality is 
emerging, we must study the sexual morality of the Christian Church. 


Although Christianity is commonly thought to be a religion based on Jesus Christ's teachings, 
I use the word "Christianity" in this book for the teachings of the Church establishment. I am 
justified in doing so because the Bible has recorded nothing from Jesus Christ on marriage 
and sex. The exception being the sermon condemning visual and physical adultery: 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. 
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath 
committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, 
pluck it out, and cast it from thee for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members 
should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. ( Matthew , 5:27- 

The first person in Christianity to talk on sexual morality was St. Paul. He says, "It is good 
for a man not to touch a woman." ( Corinthians I, 7:1) In simple words this means that the 
Christian Church teaches that celibacy is better than marriage, and that the human body is not 
for sexual pleasure but for the Lord only. "The body is not meant for fornication, but for the 
Lord; and the Lord for the body. ..Do you know that your bodies are members of Christ? 
(Corinthians I, 6:13,15) 

St. Paul knew that celibacy means suppressing human nature but human nature cannot be 
suppressed. He knew that if marriage is totally forbidden, then people will still indulge in 
sexual gratification unlawfully. So he says, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man 
have his own wife and every woman have her own husband ."(Corinthians I, 7:2) Then as if 

to prevent the people from forgetting the holiness of celibacy, he continues: "I say this by 
way of concession, not of command. For I wish that all men were as I myself am... Therefore, 
I say to the unmarried and the widows that it is good for them to remain singles as I am. But 
if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to 
burn." ( Corinthians I, 7:6-9) So marriage, when compared to fornication, is the lesser of two 
evils ! 

St. Paul further goes on to describe that marriage means distress: "Now concerning the 
unmarried... I think that in the view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as 
he is. ..Are you free from a wife? Then do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, 
and if a girl marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry shall have trouble in 
flesh." (Corinthians I, 7:25-28) 

According to the Bible, marriage and pleasing God are antipathetic to each other. St. Paul 
says, "I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of 
the Lord, how to please the Lord, but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how 
to please his wife and his interest is divided... The unmarried woman cares for the affairs of 
the Lord, that she may be holy in body and spirit; but a married woman cares for worldly 
affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint 
upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the 
Lord." (Corinthians I, 7:32,35) He concludes the Christian position as follows: "So that he 
who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marrying will do 
better ." (Corinthians I, 7:38) 

So the Christian view on marriage, in its original form, can be summarized as follows: 

(a) celibacy is good and should be adopted; 

(b) in order to refrain from fornication, marriage is allowed; but it is regrettable and one 
should try his or her best to avoid it; 

(c) marriage retards salvation and is antipathetic to pleasing God. 

Three centuries after St. Paul, came a theologian known as St. Augustine. Like his 
predecessor, he believed that sex was a threat to spiritual upliftment: "I know nothing which 
brings the manly mind down from the heights more than a woman's caresses and that joining 
of bodies without which one cannot have a wif e." (Basic Writings of St. Augustine, p. 455.) 

He went even further than St. Paul by associating guilt with sex. He acknowledged that was 
essential for reproduction but argued that the act of sexual intercourse itself was tainted with 
guilt because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Sexual intercourse was transformed from 
something innocent to something shameful by the original sin of Adam and Eve, which is 
passed on from generation to generation. 

In his The City of God, St. Augustine says, "Man’s transgression [i.e., Adam and Eve’s sin] 
did not annul the blessing of fertility bestowed upon him before he sinned, but infected it 
with the disease of lust." (The City of God, p. 21) In short, he preached that: (a) sex was 
something shameful because of the original sin of Adam and Eve; (b) chastity and celibacy 

was of a higher morality than marriage; (c) celibacy was a prerequisite for priests and nuns. 


There is no doubt that the survey of the Christian sexual morality is essential for 
understanding the sexual revolution of this century; but to fully comprehend the historical 
background in which the new sexual morality has emerged, it is equally important to look at 
the Victorian era. 

"While the Christians in the pre-Victorian era were content with restricting sex to marriage, 
Victorians were concerned with how best to harness sex and rechannel it to loftier ends. For 
Victorians a moral man abstained from sex outside of marriage and was highly selective and 
considerate in sexual expression within marriage. And a moral woman endured these 
sporadic ordeals and did nothing to encourage them. Pleasure was not an appropriate goal for 
either sex, but especially not so for a woman." ( Fundamentals of Human Sexuality, p. 483) 

The following can be stated as the sexual morality of the Christian West in the nineteenth 
century: (a) sex is morally degrading compared to celibacy; (b) sexual passion in human 
beings is a result of the original sin, therefore sex for pleasure is sinful; (c) sex without 
pleasure is allowed only with the intention of procreation. At the dawn of the twentieth 
century, the prevalent view was that sex is inherently evil and is acceptable only as a lesser 
of two evils of fornication and marriage. 


What you read above was a brief historical and social background of the Christian West 
against which the New Morality was emerging. The Church made a serious error in 
suppressing the most natural urge of human beings, the very means of their perpetuity. And it 
is obvious that natural urges can never be suppressed. 'Allamah Rizvi writes: 

If a religion shuts its eyes to the intricacies of family problems, its followers, sooner 
or later, will revolt against it, destroying all religious tenets in the wake of the 
rebellion. . .Christianity ignored the claims of human nature, extolling the idea of 
celibacy. Many zealous people tried to live up to that ideal. Monks and nuns shut 
themselves in monasteries. For a short period, this scheme worked well. Then nature 
took its revenge; the monks and abbots cultivated the idea that they were 
representatives of Christ, and the nuns were given the titles of 'brides of Christ.' So 
with easy conscience they turned the monasteries into centres of sexual liberties. ( The 
Family Life of Islam, p. 8) 

Commenting on the attitude of the Christian clergy, Russell writes, "It was only towards the 
end of the thirteenth century that the celibacy of the clergy was rigidly enforced. The clergy, 
of course, continued to have illicit relations with women..." (. Marriage and Morals, p. 64) 

Pope John XII was condemned for adultery and incest; the abbot-elect of St. Augustine, at 
Canterbury, in 1171 was found to have seventeen illegitimate children in a single village; 
Henry III, Bishop of Leige, was deposed in 1274 for having sixty-five illegitimate children. 
The writers of the Middle Ages are full of accounts of nunneries that were like brothels, of 
the vast multitude of infanticides within their walls, and of incest among the clergy which 
forced the church to announce that priests should not be permitted to live with their mothers 
and sisters. ( History of European Morals, vol. II p. 350-351) 

This and nothing else could have been the consequence of an unnatural sexual morality. 
Those who could not suppress their natural urges, indulged in sinful acts secretly; others, like 
Martin Luther, revolted against the church and started the reformation movement which 
abandoned celibacy. 

And when the Christian Church lost its influence in social affairs of the Western world and a 
separation between the Church and the state took place, even the lay man revolted. This 
revolt gained momentum after the two World Wars; and the Christian West started the sexual 
revolution in reaction to the sexual suppression. A reform movement takes the society from 
extremes towards moderation; whereas a revolution, in its early stages, takes the society from 
one extreme to the other. ' Allamah Rizvi comments, "Nature can be compared to a steel 
spring which, when pressed down, jumps back with equal force. When it took its revenge 
upon Christians, it turned Christian societies into the most permissive, libertine and 
undisciplined ones the world had ever seen." (The Family Life of Islam, p. 8-9) 

Thus the New Morality emerged in the West and leaped to the other extreme. From the 
extreme of suppressing natural desires, some preachers of the new morality went to the 
extreme of unrestrained sexual freedom which is the realm of the animal world. They 
propounded the idea of "sex for fun," "sex for its own sake" and "free sex" which eventually 
would have completely destroyed the concept of family, the fabric of human society. In the 
late eighties, it can be said that the spring of nature is returning to its normal position. 
Katchadourian and Lunde, writing in 1980, say, "The morality of 'sex for fun' or ’sex for its 
own sake' never appealed to even the majority of the young. The romantic ideals of marriage, 
fidelity, and a stable home life for rearing children were still very much alive and influential 
in American life. A new synthesis of values is arising. Many of the changes in sexual 
attitudes of the 1960s have been retained, but the more radical beliefs have been found to be 
unacceptable by most people. Many individuals are willing to approve of premarital 
exploration, but they want to be certain that no one gets hurt. Many have found that ’sex for 
its own sake’ was not as gratifying as it looked when it first became popular; and others have 
seen so many people hurt by irresponsible sex that they are asking for a new morality of 
responsible sex." ( Fundamentals of Human Sexuality, p. 420) 

* * * 

To summarize, we can say that firstly, the West traveled from one extreme (that of sexual 
suppression exemplified by the Christian Church) to the other extreme (that of free sex and 

sex for fun exemplified by the liberal sexual morality). Secondly, the West has realized that 
free sex and sex for fun is not acceptable to human sensibilities. Finally, after jumping from 
one extreme to the other, the West is longing for "a new morality of responsible sex." In our 
view, the morality of responsible sex is the balanced sexual morality of Islam to which we 
shall turn soon. 

* * * 

The reason why I discussed the religious and social background in which the sexual 
revolution has taken place is to let the Muslims In the West and the East know that this 
revolution was not a by-product of science and technology per se (although some scientific 
technologies like contraceptives have made it easier); rather it was a reaction to the 
suppressive sexual morality of the Christian Church. This, I hope, will also break the myth 
among many Asians and Africans, especially the elite class, that every behavior and norm of 
the West is based on sound scientific reasons! 

Chapter Two 


The Islamic Sexual Morality (I) 
Its Foundation 


The Islamic sexual morality is fundamentally different from that of the Christian Church. 

This is because of the all-encompassing nature of the Islamic shari'ah. Bertrand Russell says, 
"Great religious leaders, with the exception of Muhammad and Confucius, if he can be called 
religious have in general been very indifferent to social and political considerations, and have 
sought rather to perfect the soul by meditation, discipline and self-denial." ( Marriage and 
Morals, p. 175-176) Yes, Islam has surely not been indifferent to social problems. 

The Islamic sexual morality is also fundamentally different from the new sexual morality in a 
sense that it does not accept the concept of free sex. Islam aims at teaching its followers not 
to suppress their sexual urges, rather to fulfill them but in a responsible way. 

Islam recognizes the sexual needs of human beings and believes that the natural instincts 
should be nurtured, not suppressed. Islam says that the biological parts of our body have a 
purpose, they have not been created uselessly. No text in Islam can be found to equate sex 
with inherent evil or sin; whatever has been taught by the Qur'an, Prophet Muhammad and 
his Ahlu'l-bayt points in the opposite direction. What the Qur'an and the authentic sunnah 
and I emphasize on authentic have said about sex and marriage will now be discussed under 
the following headings: Islam has very highly recommended marriage as a good deed and not 
as a lesser of two evils; Islam has very strongly opposed celibacy and monasticism, and 
Islam believes that marriage is not a hindrance in spiritual wayfaring, on the contrary it helps 
the wayfarer. 


It is important to realize that in Islamic texts the idea of marriage is not restricted to a 
platonic relationship between husband and wife, nor is it confined to sex for the purpose of 
procreation . The legal term for marriage is "nikah" which literally means sexual intercourse. 

Marriage is a highly recommended deed. Allah says, "Marry the spouseless among you... if 
they are poor, God will enrich them of His bounty. "(Qur'an 24:32) The first word of this 
verse begins with "ankihu" (Marry!) which is an imperative form of the word nikah. 
According to the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, any communication in imperative form 
from God can have two levels of meaning: either it is an obligatory command or a very high 

recommendation. And therefore we see that in Islam celibacy is not considered as a virtue. 
Based on this verse we find the Prophet saying that, "Whoever refrains from marriage 
because of fear of poverty, he has indeed thought badly of God." ( Wasa'ilu 'sh-Shi'ah, vol. 

14, p. 24) In another verse Allah says, "... Then marry such women as seem good to you two, 
three or four. But if you fear that you will not do justice between your wives, then marry only 
one... "(4:3) 

Sex has been openly recommended in the Qur'an, "When they [ i.e ., the wives] have cleansed 
themselves [ after menstruation], you go into them as Allah has commanded. " (2:222) The 
phrase ’commanded you' does not refer to any legislative command; that is, it does not mean 
that as soon as a person's wife becomes clean from her period, he should immediately have 
sex with her. It is a creative command and refers to the sexual urge which Allah has placed in 
our nature. And when the sexual urge is counted as a creative command of God, then who 
can associate it in any way with sin and evil?! 

Marriage and sex are among the signs of God's power and blessings. The Qur'an says, "And 
among His signs is that He has created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you 
may live in tranquility with them; and He has created love and mercy between you. Verily, in 
that are signs for those who reflect. "(30:21 ) 

From these few verses of the Qur'an, one can easily understand that according to Islam: (a) 
marriage is a sign of God's power and blessings; (b) marriage is a highly recommended act of 
virtue which should not be avoided because of poverty; (c) sexual urge is a creative 
command of God placed in human nature. After equating sex with Allah's creative command, 
there can be no room for equating it with guilt, sin or evil. 

* * * 

The Prophet and the Imams of Ahlu'l Bayt also encouraged their followers to marry and to 
fulfill their sexual urges in lawful ways as can be seen from the following: The Prophet said, 
"No house has been built in Islam more beloved in the sight of Allah than through 
marriage." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 3) The Prophet said, "O you young men! I recommend 
marriage to you." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 25) Imam 'Ali said, "Marry, because marriage is the 
tradition of the Prophet. The Prophet said, 'Whosoever likes to follow my tradition, then he 
should know that marriage is from my tradition.'" ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 3-4, 6) Imam Riza 
said, "Three things are from the traditions of the messengers of God: using perfume, 
removing the [excessive] hair and frequently visiting one's wife." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 4) 
Ishaq bin 'Ammar quotes Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq as follows: "Loving women is among the 
traditions of the prophets." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 9) 

The Prophet said, "Prayer has been made the apple of my eyes, and my pleasure is in 
women." (Wasa'il, Vol. 14, p. 10) See with what ease the Prophet moves from prayers to the 
pleasure of women! The Prophet said, "No Muslim man has gained a benefit after [the 
religion of] Islam better than a Muslim wife who is a cause of his pleasure whenever he 

looks towards her..." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 23) Imam Muhammad al-Baqir quotes the Prophet 
as follows: "Allah says that, 'Whenever I intend to gather the good of this world and the 
hereafter for a Muslim, I give him a heart which is humble [to Me], a tongue which praises 
[Me], a body which can bear [worldly] affliction and a believing wife who is a cause of his 
pleasure whenever he looks towards her and who protects herself and his property when he is 
absent." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 23) See with what ease Allah has combined His praise with the 
pleasure a man derives from a faithful wife! 

Jamil bin Darraj quotes Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq saying, "Mankind has not enjoyed [anything] in 
this world and the hereafter more than the desire for women. Allah says, 'The love of desire 
of women has been made to seem fair to people. '[3 : 14] The people of the Paradise do not 
enjoy anything from it more desirable than sex, neither food nor drink." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 
10 ) 


The Islamic point of view about the worldly good things is not negative, rather it says that we 
should appreciate them as the blessings of God. And Islam is, therefore, totally opposed to 
monasticism and celibacy. 'Uthman bin Maz’un was a close companion of the Prophet. One 
day his wife came to the Prophet and complained, "O the Messenger of God! ’Uthman fasts 
during the day and stands for prayers during the night." In other words, she meant to say that 
her husband was abstaining from sexual relations during the night as well as the day. The 
Prophet was so much angered with this that he did not even wait to put on his slippers. He 
came out with the slippers in his hands and went to 'Uthman's house. The Prophet found him 
praying. When 'Uthman finished his prayers and turned towards the Prophet, the latter said, 
"O 'Uthman! Allah did not send me for monasticism, rather He sent me with a simple and 
straight [shari'ah]. I fast, pray and also have intimate relations with my wife. So whosoever 
likes my tradition, then he should follow it; and marriage is one of my traditions. ( Wasa'il , 
Vol. 14, p. 10) Since 'Uthman was already married, the word "marriage" in this hadith can 
only be applied to sexual relations. 

In another incident, three women came to the Prophet and complained that their husbands 
were abstaining from meat, perfume and intimate relations with their wives. The Prophet 
quickly came to the mosque, went on the pulpit and said, "What has happened to some of my 
companions that they do not eat meat, they do not use perfume and they do not go to their 
women?! Whereas I eat meat, use perfume and go to my wives. Therefore whosoever 
dislikes my tradition, then he is not from me. ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p.4) 

Ibn Abu 'Umayr quotes that Sikkin an-Nakha’i had devoted himself to prayers and abstinence 
from women and delicious food. Then he wrote a letter to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq seeking 
clarification about his actions. The Imam wrote, "As for what you have said about abstaining 
from women, you surely know how many women the Prophet had ! As for food, the Prophet 
used to eat meat and honey." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 4) The Imam is obviously condemning the 
holier-than-thou attitude of his companion. 

Imam 'Ali narrates that some companions of the Prophet had vowed to abstain from sexual 
relations with their wives, from eating during the day and from sleeping during the night. 
Umm Salamah, the Prophet’ s wife, informed him about this group. The Prophet went out to 
his companions and said, "Do you abstain from women whereas I go to the women?! I eat 
during the day and sleep during the night! Whosoever dislikes my tradition, then he is not 
from me." After this speech, Allah revealed the following verse: 

O you who believe! Do not forbid [for yourselves] the good things which Allah has 
permitted you; and do not exceed [the law] Allah does not like those who exceed [the 
law]. Therefore eat of the lawful and good things that Allah has provided you, and 
fear Allah in whom you believe. (5:87-8) 

Read this verse carefully and see that firstly, it counts sex, food and sleep among "the lawful 
and good things which Allah has permitted you;" and secondly celibacy and abstinence is 
considered as "exceeding the law of God." After this verse was revealed, those companions 
came to the Prophet and said, "O Messenger of God! We have taken oath to abstain from 
those things." That is, how can we now break our oath of abstinence? Then Allah revealed 
the following verse "Allah will not call you [to account] for vain oaths... "(5:84) Again, note 
that an oath of celibacy or abstinence from the good and lawful things is considered by Islam 
as ’vain oaths!’ ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 8-9) 

The discouraging of celibacy is not confined to men, even women have been discouraged 
from remaining single. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq said, "The Prophet has forbidden the women to 
become ascetic and to prevent themselves from husbands." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 117) 

'Abdus Samad bin Bashir quotes that a woman came to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq and said, "May 
God bless you; I am an ascetic woman." 

The Imam: "What does asceticism mean to you?" 

The woman: "It means that I will never marry." 

The Imam: "Why?" 

The woman: "By practicing asceticism, I want to acquire favor (of God)." 

The Imam: "Go away! If asceticism was a means of acquiring favor (of God), then Fatimah 
would have been more entitled to it than you because none can gain more favor [in the eyes 
of Allah] than her." (Wasa'il, Vol. 14, p. 1 17-1 18) 

A similar incident is also narrated in relation to Imam Riza. 

The Prophet said, "The most low [in status] among your dead are the singles." (Wasa'il, Vol. 
14, p. 7) 

Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq says that a person came to my father. My father asked him, "Do you 
have a wife? " He said, "No. " My father said, "I would not prefer to have the world with all 
its riches while I sleep at night without a wife." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p.7) 


In Islam, contrary to Christianity, marriage and sex are not antipathetic to the love for and 
worship of God. Instead of an obstacle, marriage is regarded as an asset in acquiring spiritual 

The Prophet said, "One who marries has already guarded half of his religion, therefore he 
should fear Allah for the other half." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p.5) A person who can fulfill his 
sexual urges lawfully is less distracted in the spiritual journey. Love for women and faith are 
inter-related. In one hadith, 'Umar bin Zayd quotes Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq that, "I do not think 
that a person's faith can increase positively unless his love for women has 
increased." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p.9) The same Imam said, "Whenever a person's love for 
women increases, his faith increases in quality." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p.l 1) He also said, 
"Whosoever's love for us increases, his love for women must also increase." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 
14, p.ll) 

Marriage even elevates the value of prayers. The Prophet said, "Two rak 'ats (cycles) prayed 
by a married person is better than the night- vigil and the fast of a single person." ( Wasa'il , 
Vol. 14, p.7) Ibn Luzzal quotes Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq saying that, "Two rak'ats prayed by a 
married person is better than seventy rak'ats prayed by a single person." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, 

The Prophet said, "If anyone likes to meet Allah in purity, then he should meet Him with a 
wife." ( Wasa'il , Vol. 14, p. 25) 

A woman came to the Prophet's house and her strong perfume soon filled the house. When 
the Prophet inquired about the visitor, the woman said that she had tried everything to attract 
her husband but in vain; he does not leave his meditation to pay any attention to her. 

The Prophet told her to inform her husband about the reward of sexual intercourse which he 
described as follows: "When a man approaches his wife, he is guarded by two angels and [at 
that moment in Allah's views] he is like a warrior fighting for the cause of Allah. When he 
has intercourse with her, his sins fell like the leaves of the tree [in fall season]. When he 
performs the major ablution, he is cleansed from sins. ( Wasa'il 'sh-Shi'ah, Vol. 14, p. 74) 

* * * 

These quotations from the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet and the Imams of Ahlu'l- 
bayt show that the Islamic view on sex and marriage is in complete harmony with human 
nature. It can easily be concluded that in the Islamic sexual morality: (a) marriage and sex is 

highly recommended and it is in no way associated with evil, guilt or sin; (b) monasticism 
and celibacy is unacceptable; (c) marriage is considered a helping factor in attaining spiritual 
perfection it prevents the Muslims from getting into sins and also enhances the value of their 
acts of worship. These teachings neutralize the need for a sexual revolution in a Muslim 
society. Since there is no sexual suppression, the question of a sexual revolution does not 

Chapter Two 

The Islamic Sexual Morality (I) 
Its Foundation 


There are many non-Muslim writers, especially of liberal and feminist ideology, who have 
attacked the Islamic view of woman's sexuality. Their criticism is mostly based on some 
misconceived ideas about the Islamic sexual morality. Basically there are two problems with 
these writers: either they study Islam based on some Western social theories and models, or 
they are ill-equipped to study the original Islamic sources. They rely mostly on the work done 
on Islam by the Orientalists or the European travelers of the past centuries. In some cases, 
books like Thousand and One Nights and The Perfumed Garden are used to explain the 
Islamic view on women's sexuality! These books, at the most, reflect the Arab view of female 
sexuality not the Islamic view. Therefore, these writings do not even deserve refutation. 

However, for our discussion I have selected the work of an Arab feminist writer, Fatima 
Mernissi. The reason for commenting on her work is that she is an Arab writer who had easy 
excess to Islamic literature and hadith, in particular Ihyau 'Ulumi 'd-Din of the famous Sunni 
scholar Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111 C.E.). Moreover, Mernissi’s book has been 
translated into various European and Asian languages and is becoming popular as an insider's 


Fatima Mernissi's book, Beyond the Veil subtitled as "Male-Female Dynamics in Modern 
Muslim Society," is a study of the male-female relationship in the present Moroccan society. 
It is important to bear in mind that the attitude of the Muslims of Morocco does not 
necessarily represent Islam. However, Mernissi has discussed the Islamic sexual morality in a 
chapter entitled as "The Muslim Concept of Active Female Sexuality." The main part of her 
discussion centers on the comparison between the views of Freud and Ghazali on female 
sexuality. Mernissi has summarized her conclusion as follows: 

The irony is that Muslim and European theories come to the same conclusion: women 
are destructive to the social order for Imam Ghazali because they are active, for Freud 
because they are not. 

Then she goes on to describe the negative attitude of the Christian West and the positive 

attitude of Islam towards sexuality in general. She writes: 

Different social orders have integrated the tensions between religion and sexuality in 
different ways. In the Western Christian experience sexuality itself is attacked, 
degraded as animality and condemned as anti-civilization. The individual is split into 
two antithetical selves: the spirit and the flesh, the ego and the id. The triumph of 
civilization implied the triumph of soul over flesh, of ego over id, of the controlled 
over the uncontrolled, of spirit over sex. Islam took a substantially different path. What 
is attacked and debased is not sexuality but women, as the embodiment of destruction, 
the symbol of disorder. The woman is fitna, the epitome of the uncontrollable, a living 
representative of the dangers of sexuality and its rampant disruptive potential... 
Sexuality per se is not a danger. On the contrary it has three positive, vital functions... 
{Beyond the Veil, p.44) 

After describing the positive side of Islamic sexual morality, Mernissi attacks the concept of 
female sexuality in Islam as she has understood it from Ghazali's writings: 

According to Ghazali, the most precious gift God gave humans is reason. Its best use 
is the search for knowledge... But to be able to devote his energies to knowledge, man 
has to reduce the tensions within and without his body, avoid being distracted by 
external elements, and avoid indulging in earthly pleasures. Women are dangerous 
distraction that must be used for the specific purpose of providing the Muslim nation 
with offspring and quenching the tensions of the sexual instinct. But in no way should 
women be an object of emotional investment or the focus of attention, which should be 
devoted to Allah alone in the form of knowledge-seeking, meditation, and prayer. 
{Beyond the Veil, p.45) 

The conclusion which this ardent Arab feminist describes as the Islamic view can be 
summarized as follows: (a) Women are considered sexually active in the Islamic view; (b) 
therefore, women are a danger to the social order, (c) There should be no emotional 
investment in women; that is, a man should have no love for his wife, (d) Why should there 
be no love between husband and wife? Mernissi would answer that love should be exclusively 
devoted to Allah. Now let us deal with each of these premises and conclusions gradually and 
see whether or not they are based on any reliable Islamic sources. 


The statement that in Islam women are considered sexually active, can mean two different 
things: either they are more sexually active than men or they are as sexually active as men. In 
the first sense, it would mean that women have a stronger sex drive; and in the second sense, 
it would mean that women are as normal as men in their sexuality. By looking at the context 
of Mernissi's writing, I would be justified in saying that she is using this statement in the first 
sense, that is, women are more sexually active than men. 

In my study of the Qur'an and authentic ahadith on this subject, I have not come across any 
statement which says that women are more sexually active than men. I can say with 
confidence that as far as Islam is concerned, there is no difference between the sexuality of 
men and women. There are, however, certain ahadith which can be used by Mernissi to prove 
that women are more sexually active than men provided she decides to stick to one part of 
those ahadith and ignore the other part! It is obvious that such partial use of hadith is an 
unacceptable academic exercise. 

For example, in one such hadith, Asbagh bin Nubatah quotes Imam 'Ali as follows: 

"Almighty God has created the sexual desire in ten parts; then He gave nine parts to women 
and one to men. " If the hadith had ended here, Mernissi would be right in her claim, but the 
hadith goes on: "And if the Almighty God had not given the women equal parts of shyness, 
then each man would have nine women related to him." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p.40) In other 
words, Allah has given the women greater part of sexual desire but He has also neutralized it 
by giving equal parts of shyness to them. Seen as a whole, this and other similar ahadith do 
not support the claim that in Islam women are more sexually active then men. As for the 
question that why did Allah give more sexual desire to women and then neutralize it with 
shyness, I shall inshaAllah deal with it in the chapter on sexual technique. So how has 
Mernissi arrived at her conclusion? While contrasting the views of Freud and Ghazali on 
passive and active sexuality of women, Fatima Mernissi has studied the view of both writers 
on the process of human reproduction. First she quotes Freud as follows: "The male sex cell is 
actively mobile and searches out the female and the latter, the ovum, is immobile and waits 
passively..." ( Beyond the Veil, p. 36, quoting Freud's New Introductory Lectures, p. 144) This 
proves to Mernissi that in Freud's view, woman is sexually passive. Then she contrasts this 
with Ghazali's view by quoting him as follows, "The child is not created from man's sperm 
alone, but from the union of a sperm from the male with a ovum from the female. ..and in any 
case the ovum of the female is a determinant factor in the process of coagulation." ( Beyond 
the Veil, p. 37) This proves to Mernissi that in Ghazali's view, woman is sexually active. 

I doubt whether Ghazali would agree with the conclusion which Mernissi draws from his last 
sentence. Moreover, even if Ghazali meant such a thing, then it cannot be substantiated from 
the original sources of Islam, the Qur'an and the sunnah. We have a clear hadith which refutes 
such a connotation to the process of reproduction. Once the Prophet was asked, "O 
Muhammad! Why is that in some cases the child resembles his paternal uncles and has no 
resemblance whatsoever to his maternal uncles, and in some cases he resembles his maternal 
uncles and has no resemblance whatsoever to his paternal uncles?" The Prophet said, 
"Whosoever's water-drop [i.e., sperm or ovum] overwhelms that of his or her partner, the 
child will resemble that person. "(At-Tabrasi, al-Ihtijaj, vol. 1, p. 48 For a similar hadith in 
Sunni sources, see Ibn Qayyim, Tibyan, p. 334-5. Also see an interesting study on birth 
control among the Muslims, Sex and Society in Islam by B.F. Musallam.) In other words, if 
the wife's ovum overwhelms the sperm of her husband, then the child will resemble the 
mother or the maternal uncles; and if the husband's sperm overwhelms the ovum of his wife, 
then the child will resemble the father or the paternal uncles. This hadith makes it quite clear 

that male and female play equal role in reproduction; sometimes, the male sperm overwhelms 
the female ovum and at other times the female ovum overwhelms the male sperm. 

Then she quotes Ghazali's statement about the pattern of ejaculation of sexes as follows, "... 
The woman's ejaculation is a much slower process and during that process her sexual desire 
grows stronger and to withdraw from her before she reaches her pleasure is harmful to 
her." {Beyond the Veil, p. 38) By this statement, Mernissi wants to prove that in Islam woman 
is considered sexually more active than man. When I read this statement for the first time, I 
said to myself that this can not be true at all times: sometimes the male ejaculates first and at 
other times the female ejaculates first. And I was surprised that Ghazali would say such a 
thing. So I checked the Arabic statement of Ghazali and noticed that while translating the 
above quotation, Mernissi has conveniently left out the word " rubbama " which means 
"sometimes". (Al-Ghazali, Ihya, vol. 2, p. 148) So the correct statement of Ghazali is that 
"The woman's ejaculation sometimes is a much slower process..." With this correction, 
Mernissi's argument loses its legs. 


The outcome of the above premise of Mernissi is as follows: Since Islam considers women as 
sexually more active, therefore, it considers them to be a danger to the social order. 

After quoting Ghazali that, "The virtue of the woman is a man's duty. And the man should 
increase or decrease sexual intercourse with the woman according to her needs so as to secure 
her virtue," Mernissi comments, "The Ghazalian theory directly links the security of the social 
order to that of the woman's virtue, and thus to the satisfaction of her sexual needs. Social 
order is secured when the women limits herself to her husband and does not create fitna, or 
chaos, by enticing other men to illicit intercourse." {Beyond the Veil, p. 39, Ihya, vol. 2, p. 


Firstly, by looking at Ghazali's statement, I see nothing which would seem to indicate that in 
his view women are a danger to the social order. It simply describes one of the basic rights of 
conjugal relationship that the husband should not be a self-centered and selfish person, rather 
he should also think about the feelings of his wife. There is no indication at all that unsatisfied 
Muslim women in general would necessarily go out and commit adultery. 

Secondly, if unsatisfied women become a danger to the social order just because there is a 
possibility that they might commit adultery, then this possibility is in no way confined to 
women even unsatisfied men could commit adultery ! If Islam had considered women as a 
danger to the social order on this account, then it must also do so with men! And in stretching 
this argument to its logical conclusion, one would have to say that Islam considers men and 
women a danger to the social order. You see the absurdity of this line of thought. If all men 
and women are a danger to the social order, then whose 'social order' are we talking about?! 


The second part of Mernissi's contention is that in Islam men are not supposed to be 
emotionally attached to their wives; love between husband and wife is not encouraged or 
tolerated. Apart from what we quoted from Mernissi on this issue at the beginning of this 
discussion, she has talked on this issue, in a passing manner, at other places also. For instance, 
after quoting an interview with a Moroccan woman about her first husband by an arranged 
marriage (which has nothing to do with Islam), Mernissi writes, "Does love between man and 
wife threaten something vital in the Muslim order?. ..Heterosexual involvement, real love 
between husband and wife, is the danger that must be overcome." (. Beyond the Veil, p. 1 13) In 
another place, she says, "And it appears to me that the breakdown of sexual segregation 
permits the emergence of what the Muslim order condemns as a deadly enemy of civilization: 
love between men and women in general, and between husband and wife in particular. 

" ( Beyond the Veil, p. 107) 

Mernissi could not have been more further from the truth than in these contentions ! Instead of 
going to the original sources of Islam, she has based her conclusion on the way a certain 
ethnic group of Muslims behave in their personal life. Now let us see if what she says is 
according to the original sources of Islam or not. 

The Qur'an says, "And among His signs is that He has created for you spouses from among 
yourselves so that you may live in tranquility with them; and He has created love (muhabbah) 
and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect." (30: 21 ) How can 
Mernissi say that Islam considers love between husband and wife a deadly enemy of 
civilization while the God of Islam counts it as a sign of His creation and glory? Imam Ja'far 
as-Sadiq says, "Loving (hubb) women is among the traditions of the prophets." ( Wasa'ilu 'sh- 
Shi'ah, vol. 14, p.9) The same Imam quotes the Prophet as follows, "The statement of a 
husband to his wife that 'I love you' (inniuhibbuki) will not leave her heart ever." ( Wasa'ilu 
'sh-Shi'ah, p. 10) 

There are three interesting ahadith in which Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq has described the love for 
women as a sign and cause of increase in faith. He says, "I do not think that a person's faith 
can increase positively unless his love for women has increased. "( Wasa'ilu 'sh-Shi'ah, p. 9) 
In another hadith, he says, "Whenever a person's love for women increases, his faith increases 
in quality." Wasa'ilu 'sh-Shi'ah, p.l 1) In a third hadith he relates the love for women to the 
love for Ahlu'l-bayt which is an important teaching of the Qur'an. He says "Whosoever's love 
for us increases, his love for women must also increase." ( Wasa'ilu 'sh-Shi'ah, p. 11) I do not 
think that there is any further need to prove that Mernissi's accusation against Islam is 


If asked that why does Islam consider love for women as a deadly enemy of civilization and a 
danger to the social order, Mernissi would answer that emotional investment or the focus of 
attention "should be devoted to Allah alone in the form of knowledge-seeking, meditation, 

and prayer." This is what she describes as Ghazali's view. (. Beyond the Veil, p.45) In other 
words, Mernissi is saying that Islam, like Christianity, considers love for God and love for 
woman as two antipathetic phenomena. However, to be fair to Mernissi, I must say that this is 
a misconception from which even a scholar like Ghazali is not immune. 

Although I have already quoted in detail the Islamic view which believes that love for women 
is not inharmonious with spiritual wayfaring, I intend to discuss this issue in the light of what 
Ghazali, with his Sufi tendencies, has to say. 


In his discussions on marriage in Ihyau 'Ulumi 'd-Din, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali has a 
section on "Encouragement for Marriage" (at-targhibfi 'n-nikah). In this section he has 
quoted some sayings of the Prophet about virtue of marriage. Then he has a section 
on "Discouragement from Marriage" (at-targhib 'ani 'n-nikah). In this section, apart 
from the sayings of some mystics (Sufis), Ghazali has quoted three hadith : two from 
the Prophet and one from Imam 'Ali. Interestingly, the third hadith is not even 
relevant to the issue; it is more relevant to family planning it talks about having fewer 
wives and children! Moreover, all three ahadith are classified by the scholars of 
hadith as weak (da'if). (See the editor's footnote in Ihya', vol. 2, p. 1 01 and also in al- 
Kashani, Tahzibu 'l-lhya, vol. 3, p. 57) 

Then Ghazali goes on to discuss about the "benefits and harms of marriage. " Before 
scrutinizing the 'harms of marriage,' I wish to comment on two 'ahadith' of the Prophet which 
Ghazali has quoted from his Sunni sources and which Mernissi has also used in her book. 

The first hadith is as follows: 

The Prophet said, "When the woman comes towards you, it is Satan who is 
approaching you. When one of you sees a woman and he feels attracted to her, he 
should hurry to his wife. With her, it would be the same as with the other one." {Ihya', 
vol. 2, p. 110, Beyond the Veil, p. 42) 

After quoting this hadith, Mernissi adds the comments of Imam Muslim that "She resembles 
Satan in his irresistible power over the individual." 

While discussing the issue of forgery or interpolation in hadith, our 'ulama' say that one 
source of forgery was the mystics and the so-called pious mullahs who imported the idea of 
celibacy and monasticism from without Islam into the hadith literature. And since the evilness 
of woman is a main component of Christian monasticism, similar ideas also crept into the 
hadith literatureeither in form of total forgery or in form of interpolation. When I read the 
above 'hadith', I suspected it to be an interpolation, especially its opening sentence. My 
suspicion was confirmed when I started to look for a similar hadith in the Shi'ah sources. The 
Shi'ah sources narrate a similar hadith as follows: 

The Prophet said, "When one of you sees a beautiful woman, he should go to his wife. 
Because what is with her [i.e., wife] is same as what is with the other one." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, 
p. 72-73) The same hadith is also recorded with a slight difference: The Prophet said, "O 
Men ! Verily the act of seeing [a beautiful woman] is from Satan, therefore whoever finds this 
inclination in him should go to his wife." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 73) 

The hadith narrated from Sunni sources equates the woman to Satan, whereas in the Shi'ah 
sources there is no such implication at all. On the contrary, in the 

second version of the hadith found in the Shi'ah sources, it is the man's sight which is related 
to the temptation by Satan ! If we have to choose between the sources of the Prophet's sunnah, 
then we have no choice but to accept the version given by the Imams of Ahlu'l-bayt, the 
family of the Prophet. After all, no one could have known the Prophet better than the Ahlu'l- 
bayt. In our view, Imam Ghazali, Imam Muslim and Mernissi are all wrong in their attempt to 
equate woman with the Satan. The hadith they have quoted has been interpolated, most 
probably, by the mystics to encourage monasticism which they have imported from 

The second hadith is as follows: The Prophet said, "Do not go to the women whose husbands 
are absent. Because Satan will get in your bodies as blood rushes through your flesh. {Ihya', 
vol. 2, p. 110; Beyond the Veil, p. 42) 

First of all, I was not able to find a similar hadith in the Shi'ah sources. This, plus its content, 
casts doubt on the authenticity of the hadith. Secondly, the source of this so-called hadith is 
Sahih at-Tirmidhi. And I am surprised how Ghazali and Mernissi could use this hadith while 
their source, Imam at-Tirmidhi, himself comments that "This is a strange hadithl" (haza 
hadithun gharib.) Thirdly, even if the hadith is accepted, it does not prove what Mernissi 
wants from it: "The married woman whose husband is absent is a particular threat to men." 
Because the hadith equates the men, and not the women, with Satan. Actually, the woman in 
this hadith emerge as the victim of men who have been overwhelmed by the Satan! 

* * * 

Now let us return to the work of Ghazali in which he is describing the harms of marriage. 
Ghazali names three things as the harms of marriage and we shall discuss each of them 

The First Harm: 

"The first and greatest harm [of marriage] is 'the inability to gain lawful livelihood.’ 
This is something which is not easy for everyone especially during these times bearing 
in mind that livelihood is necessary. Therefore, the marriage will be a cause for 
obtaining the food by unlawful means, and in this is man’s perdition and also that of 
his family. Whereas a single person is free from these problems. . . " {Ihya', vol. 2, p. 

117 ) 

Then he goes on to quote the mystics on this issue whose statements are of no value to us 
unless they are based on the Qur'an and the sunnah. They praise celibacy under the influence 
of monasticism which has been condemned by the Prophet and the Qur'an. 

The logical conclusion of what Ghazali and other mystics say is that ’if you are rich, it is okay 
to marry; but if you are poor, you should not marry otherwise you will end up seeking 
provision from unlawful means!' This statement is totally against the Qur'anic view which 
says, "Marry the spouseless among you. . . if they are poor, God will enrich them of His 
bounty. "(24:32) "Do not kill your children because of (fear of poverty We will provide for you 
and them. "(6: 152) The Prophet said, "Whoever refrains from marriage because of fear of 
poverty, he has indeed thought badly of God." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 24) I do not know how a 
person can gain spiritual upliftment by thinking negatively about God's promise ! 

The Second Harm: 

"The inability [of men] to fulfill the wives' rights, to forebear their [ill] manner and to 
bear patiently their annoyance." (Ihya' vol. 2, p. 118) 

What is Imam Ghazali saying? Does he mean that women in general are over-demanding, ill- 
mannered and a nuisance? Can he really base this view on the Qur'an and sunnah of Prophet 
Muhammad (peace be upon him)? I do not think so; and that is why we see that Ghazali has 
produced only the sayings of some mystics in support of his views. And it is obvious that this 
cannot be substantiated by the original Islamic sources. 

The Third Harm: 

"The wife and children will distract him from Allah and attract him towards seeking 
[the benefits of] this world and planning a good life for his children by accumulating 
more wealth... And whatever distracts a person from Allah whether wife, wealth or 
childrenis disastrous for him." (Ihya', vol. 2, p. 119) 

If what Ghazali says is true, then not only marriage, but children, friends, relatives and every 
material thing in this world must be labeled as 'harmful' to a Muslim because all these have 
the potential of distracting a person from God and the hereafter. Here Ghazali sounds more 
like St. Paul! And if this is true, then a Muslim should have nothing to do with this world, he 
should just confine himself to a cave in an isolated jungle or desert and pray to God! The 
absurdity of this idea from the Islamic point of view is obvious. 

What Ghazali and other mystics say is not very much different from the monastic ideas of the 
Christian Church. And, incidentally, they suffered the same fate as the Christian monks. You 
have already read the comments of 'Allamah Rizvi about the monks that "when the nature 

took its revenge, the monks and abbots cultivated the idea that they were representatives of 
Christ, and the nuns were given the titles of 'brides of Christ.’ So with easy conscience they 
turned the monasteries into centres of sexual liberties." (see previous) Similarly, when nature 
took its revenge against the Sufis, in the words of 'Allamah Mutahhari, they started to "derive 
[sexual] pleasure in company of handsome persons and this work of theirs is considered as a 
journey towards Allah! ( Aklaq-e Jinsi, p. 67) 

The Sufis have a concept of al-fanafi 'l-lah which means ’obliteration of the self into God’. In 
simple words, it means the spiritual experience of becoming one with God. I am surprised 
how Ghazali can consider marriage as a distraction from God when fana and obliteration of 
two beings can be experienced in this world only in the sexual context when husband and 
wife reach the climax and become one for a few moments ! 


Imam Ghazali and other mystics have made a serious mistake in understanding the concept of 
'preparing for the hereafter’. And this is what I would like to briefly clarify here. The concept 
of 'preparing for the hereafter’ depends on one’s outlook about the relationship between this 
world and the hereafter. There are three possibilities: 1. Submerge in the blessings of this 
world and forget the hereafter; 2. Utilize this world for the hereafter; 3. Forsake this world for 
the hereafter. The mystics and Sufis have adopted the third alternative, whereas the 
materialists have adopted the first alternative. Between these two extremes, lies the true 
Islamic view. There are many verses of the Qur'an which highly praise the blessings of this 
world, and many others which strongly exhort the Muslims to seek the hereafter. Seen in 
isolation, these verses can be used by the two groups to prove their extreme views. But seen 
in the light of other verses which talk about the inter-relationship of this world and the 
hereafter, one is guided to the Qur’anic view. And it is obvious that you cannot isolate the 
verses of Qur'an from one another, especially if they are talking about the same issue. As I 
said earlier, this is not the place to fully discuss this issue, but I will give a few examples from 
the Qur’an and the sunnah to clarify the Islamic view about this world and the hereafter. 

The Qur’an says: "Seek, among that which God has given to you, the hereafter, but do not 
forget your portion of this world either. "(28:77) Allah says, "And when the prayer has ended, 
spread out in the world and seek the blessings of Allah and remember Him often, haply you 
will succeed. "(62: 10) 

Imam Hasan says, "Be for your world as if you are going to live forever, and be for your 
hereafter as if you are going to die tomorrow." ( Wasa'il , vol. 12, p. 49) The Imam is teaching 
you that Islam does not want you to forsake this world, it wants you to totally benefit from it 
and love it but not to the extent that you may forget the hereafter the hereafter, where your 
fate depends on how obedient you were to God in your worldly life. Imam Musa al-Kazim 
says, "The person who forsakes his world for the sake of his religion or he who forsakes his 
religion for the sake of his world is not from us." ( Wasa'il , vol. 12, p. 49) In Islam, piety does 
not mean forsaking this world and living in isolation in a desert or a monastery ! Piety means 

to live a normal life in the society but without forgetting the ultimate destination, the purpose 
of our creation an eternal life in the hereafter. 

* * * 

Even the relationship between the love for God and the love for one's spouse, children, and 
the world at large is of the same type. There are two levels of love in Islam: the love for God 
and the love for everything else. Islam does not forbid a person to love the spouse, children, 
parents, relatives, friends, and the worldly blessings which Allah has given to him or her. 
However, what Islam expects is that this love should be in harmony with the love for God, it 
should be based on the love for God . The practical implication of this is that if a conflict 
occurs between the demand of the love for God and the love for anything else, then the love 
for God should take precedence. In Islam, God is the axis of existence, He and nothing else is 
the Absolute Truth. 

Allow me to explain this phenomenon in a metaphorical manner: the moon revolves around 
the earth, but at the same time, it also revolves around the sun. Moreover, the magnetic 
relationship between the moon and the earth is a minor part of the overall magnetic force 
which makes the planets revolve around the sun in our solar system. Similarly, in Islam the 
love between two human beings is like the relationship of the moon and the earth; and the 
love which a Muslim has for God is like the relationship of the sun and the planets. 

Obviously, the first type of love exists within the realm of the second. In other words, there 
are two cycles of love: love for God and love for one’s husband, wife or children. The first is 
a wider circle within which exists the second circle of love. 

Remember, there is a fine difference between what we are saying and what Mernissi and, to 
some extent, Ghazali have said. Mernissi says that in Islam love between husband and wife is 
forbidden because love should be devoted to God alone. Whereas we are saying that Islam 
does not forbid love between husband and wife or love for anything else as long as it is in 
harmony with the love for God. That is, it should not overwhelm you to the extent of 
forsaking the love for God. This is clearly mentioned in the Qur'an: 

Say (O Muhammad), "If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your clan, 
(your) possessions which you have acquired, (your)business which you fear may 
slacken and (your)dwellings which you love (if these) are dearer to you than Allah, 

His Messenger and struggling in His way, then wait till Allah brings about His 
decision (on the day of judgement). "(9:24) 

I would like to emphasize on the word "ahabbu dearer." If Allah had said that "if your.. .are 
dear to you" than Mernissi or others of her ideology might have been right in saying that 
Islam expects exclusive love for Allah and that all other loves are forbidden. But here Allah is 
talking in a comparative manner and says that if you love other things or persons more than 
Allah, then you are wrong, because such love could take you on the path of disobedience to 

the commands of Allah and cause your perdition in the hereafter. 

It is clear from what we said above that the Islamic concept of love is not confined to love for 
God vis-a-vis love for women, it is a universal concept in which we talk about love for all 
persons and things. So it is absolutely misleading to give a sexist context to this issue and say 
that the Islamic sexual morality is an anti-women morality. 

In conclusion, we can say that the views of Mernissi and Ghazali that in Islam women are 
sexually more active than men and that Islam does not tolerate love between husband and 
wife cannot be substantiated from the original Islamic sources, the Qur'an and the authentic 


We have said earlier that Islam does not agree with the suppression of sexual urges, rather it 
promotes their fulfillment. But at the same time we have been emphasizing that it must be 
done in a responsible and lawful way. In other words, we have hinted that according to Islam 
sexual urges can be fulfilled in two ways: lawful and unlawful or moral and immoral. 

What is the criterion of moral and immoral in the Islamic morality? Islam, like any other 
religion or ideology, has certain fundamental beliefs and all its teachings must be in harmony 
with its fundamentals. The foundation of Islam is the faith in One God, not just as the Creator 
but also as the Law-Giver. The Qur'an is not just a book of spiritual guidance, it is also a 
source of laws regulating our daily life. "Islam," after all, means "submission to the will of 
God" The Qur'an says clearly that "It is not for any believer man or woman, when God and 
His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have the choice in the affair. Whosoever disobeys 
God and His Messenger has gone astray into manifest error. "(33 :36) 

So in Islam, the right and the wrong, the moral and the immoral, the lawful and the unlawful 
is decided by Allah and His Messenger. And, in our view, the Imams of Ahlu'l-bayt are the 
best commentators of the Qur'an, the protectors of the authentic sunnah and living examples 
of the teachings of Islam. In short, the criteria of lawful and unlawful in Islam are the Qur'an, 
the authentic sunnah of the Prophet and his Ahlu'l-bayt. The Shi'ah faith also emphasizes that 
whatever Allah has decreed as lawful and unlawful is based on a reasonmaterial or spiritual or 
both. However, God is Omniscient whereas we are still at the shallow end of the deep ocean 
of knowledge, therefore it is not always possible for us to understand the rationale behind 
each and every command of God. The basic concept of sexual moralitythat sex is not evil and 
should not be suppressedis a very obvious example of an Islamic teaching which is in 
complete harmony with human reason and nature. 

As soon as we say that Islam believes in regulating our sexual behavior, we are confronted 
with the question about (1) regulating sex by morality and (2) personal freedom in sexual 
behavior. These are the two issues which we intend to discuss briefly before closing this 


The first question is, "Can sexuality be regulated by morality?" We are told that "there cannot 
really be such a thing as a specifically sexual morality. Morality attaches not to the sexual act, 
but always to something else, with which it may be conjoined. We may reasonably forbid 
sexual violence, say, but that is on account of the violence; considered in and for itself, and 
detached from fortuitous circumstances, the sexual act is neither right nor wrong, but merely 
'natural'. "(Quoted in Scruton, Sexual Desire, p. 2) The conclusion of this idea is simple: since 
there can be no real sexual morality, therefore, there should be no restrain, whatsoever, in 
sexual gratification. Nothing should be considered immoral or unlawful! 

This idea by itself is absurd. Sexuality is an act which mostly involves two persons, and 
whenever two persons are involvedeven on secular basislaws and regulations become 
necessary to regulate their behavior. 

To provide a rational basis for this idea it is sometimes said that many nervous and mental 
disorders take place because of the feeling of sexual deprivation. The preventive measure for 
such nervous and mental disorders is unrestrained gratification of sexual instinct. What they 
want to say in simple words is that the more you restrict sex, the more people will be attracted 
towards it and suffer the feeling of deprivation. 

The libertine culture of the West actually enforced the unrestrained sexual behavior in the 
West during last thirty years. And, by keeping in mind the above arguments, one would 
expect to see a decline in the number of nervous disorders, sexual frustration, rape, incest, 
child abuse, and sexual assault. But has this really happened? No, of course, not! A look at the 
statistics shows that all the so-called effects of sexual deprivation have increased manifold in 
spite of the unrestrained sexual mood of the 60s, 70s and 80s! 

What actually happened was that the Western world, after revolting against the suppression of 
sex by the Christian system, mistook unrestrained sex for nurtured sex. Islam does not accept 
the idea of suppressing the sexual instincts, instead it encourages the nurturing of those 
feelings and fulfilling them in a responsible way. Whatever restrictions Islam imposes on sex 
are based on the idea of nurturing it. It is not different from the way we fulfill the desire for 
food: you must eat, but not overfeed yourself. Similarly you must fulfill your sexual desires, 
but not at the expense of the rights of others and of your own body. 

After rebelling against the suppressive sexual morality of the Church, the libertarian culture 
went to the other extreme of absolutely unrestrained sex. They made a big mistake in thinking 
that restrictions, in any form, were unnatural and wrong. Even Bertrand Russell, who strongly 
supports the libertarian view, had to accept that some restrictions in sexual morality are 
necessary. He writes, "I am not suggesting that there should be no morality and no self- 
restraint in regard to sex, any more than in regard to food. In regard to food we have restraints 
of three kinds, those of law, those of manners, and those of health. We regard it wrong to steal 

food, to take more than our share at a common meal, and to eat in ways that are likely to 
make us ill. Restraints of a similar kind are essential where sex is concerned, but in this case 
they are much more complex and involve much more self-control. " (Russell, Marriage and 
Morals, p. 293-294) 

Russell, however, had difficulty in finding a new basis for sexual morality. The dilemma 
which the Western world is facing at the present time is very eloquently reflected in what 
Russell has written. He says, "If we are to allow the new morality [of unrestrained sex] to take 
its course, it is bound to go further than it has done, and to raise difficulties hardly as yet 
appreciated. If, on the other hand, we attempt in the modern world to enforce restrictions 
which were possible in a former [Christian] age, we are led into an impossible stringency of 
regulation, against which human nature would soon rebel. This is so clear that, whatever the 
dangers or difficulties, we must be content to let the world go forward rather than back. For 
this purpose we shall need a genuinely new morality. I mean by this that obligations and 
duties will still have to be recognized, though they may be very different from the obligations 
and duties recognized in the past. .1 do not think that the new system any more than the old 
should involve an unbridled yielding to impulse, but I think the occasions for restraining 
impulse and the motives for doing so will have to be different from what they have been in 
the past." (Russell, Marriage and Morals, p. 91-92) 

If Russell had an opportunity to study Islam closely, I am sure he would have found in it "a 
genuinely new morality" which regulated sex without leading into "an impossible stringency 
of regulation." 


The second question with which we are confronted by secularists and liberals is that of 
personal freedom: "Am I not free to do whatever I like as long as it does not infringe upon the 
rights of others?" 

I think it will be very helpful to point out the main difference between Islam and the secular, 
liberal idea of personal freedom. In the secular system, the rights are divided into two: rights 
of an individual and rights of the society. A person is free to do whatever he or she likes as 
long as it does not infringe upon the rights of other people. To become an acceptable member 
of society, one has to accept this limitation on his or her freedom. An individual's freedom is 
only restricted by the freedom of others. Islam, on the other hand, divides the rights into three: 
rights of an individual, rights of the society, and rights of God. A person is free to do 
whatever he or she likes as long as it does not violate the rights of other people and God. To 
become a Muslim, one has to accept this limitation on his or her personal freedom. 

One more important difference is in the concept of individual's right. In secular usage, 
individual's rights are seen in contrast to those of the other members of society. Islam goes 
one step further and says that even the body of an individual has some rights against the 
person himself. In other words, Islam holds a person responsible even for the use of his or her 

body. You are not allowed to abuse your own body or harm it. Allah says, "The hearing, the 
sight, the heart all of these shall be questioned of. " (17:38) Describing the day of judgement, 
He says, "On the day when their tongues, their hands, and their feet shall bear witness 
against them as to what they were doing. " (24:24) "On that day We will put a seal upon their 
mouths, and their hands shall speak to Us and their feet shall bear witness of what they were 
earning. " (36:65) 

Imam Zaynu'l-'Abidn, in his Risalatu 'l-Huquq, describes the rights which a person's tongue, 
ears, eyes, feet, hands, stomach and sexual parts have on him. If a person misuses or abuses 
his body, then he is guilty of infringing the rights of his own body and also the rights of God 
who has given the body as a trust to us. The Qur'an says, "The believers are... those who 
protect their sexual organs except from their spouse's. . . Therefore, whosoever seeks more 
beyond that in sexual gratification], then they are the transgressors. "(23: 5-6) 

In Islam, an individual's rights are not limited only by rights of the society but also by those 
of his own body and God. The justification for this is very simple: Islam does not allow a 
person to harm or destroy himself; and sin or immorality is a means of perdition. This 
limitation is based on the love and concern which the Merciful God has for us. "Allah does 
not desire to make any impediment for you, but He desires to purify you and to complete His 
blessings upon you. " (5:6) 

The Islamic concept of personal freedom may seem restrictive when compared to that of the 
secular system, but its rationale and justification is accepted, in an indirect way, even by the 
secular society. The logical consequences of the secular idea of personal freedom is that a 
person is allowed to do whatever he likes with himself; the only limitation is that he should 
not infringe upon the rights of others. But the West has not been able to totally swallow this 
idea as can be seen in the laws which place restrictions on certain acts, for example, suicide or 
using narcotic drugs and also the mandatory use of car seat-belts. By using narcotic drugs, the 
addict is not infringing upon the rights of othersunless. of course, the meaning of infringing 
upon others' rights is stretched to include spiritual values which are not part of the secular 
realmbut still the Western society considers it unlawful and takes steps to prevent the addicts 
from using drugs. This is justified by saying that it is the society's duty to prevent its citizens 
from harming themselves. In these examples, we see that the secular system is retreating from 
the logical consequences of its version of individual freedom. The only difference remaining 
between the secular and the Islamic views is that the former gives the right of restricting to 
the society while the latter view gives that right to God. 

In conclusion, we may say that the Islamic view forbids not only the acts which infringe upon 
the rights of others but also those which infringe upon the rights of the person's own body. 
This view is based on the love and concern which Allah has for human beings . 

Chapter Three 


The Islamic Sexual Morality (2) 
Its Structure 

This chapter deals with the practical side of sexual morality. We will first talk about marriage 
at the age of puberty, followed by a look into the possible ways unlawful as well as lawful of 
handling sexual urge if one decides not to marry soon after puberty, and finally the marriage 
procedure and sexual techniques will be discussed comprehensively. 

It is necessary to mention that the last part of this chapter is very explicit because religious 
do's and don'ts have to be spelled out in very clear terms. As the saying goes, "There is no 
room for shame (haya’) in [learning or asking about] religion." 


Sexual desire is aroused in human beings at the age of puberty. In Islamic legal definition 
puberty ( bulugh ) is determined by one of the following: 

1. age: fifteen lunar years for boys and nine lunar years for girls; 

2. internal change (in boys only): The first nocturnal emission. Semen accumulates in the 
testicles from puberty onwards and more semen may be formed than the system can 
assimilate; when this happens, semen is expelled during the sleep. This is known as nocturnal 
emission wet dream or ihtlam in Arabic. 

3. physical change: Growth of coarse hair on lower part of abdomen. 

Since the sexual urge begins at puberty and as Islam says that sexual urge should be fulfilled 
only through marriage, it has allowed marriage as soon as the boy and the girl reach the age 
of puberty. In the case of girls, it not only allows them to be married as soon as they become 
mature, but also recommends such marriage. It is based on such teachings that Islam 
discourages girls from postponing their marriage because of education; instead, it says that 
girls should get married and then continue their education if they wish to do so. 

Physical maturity by itself, however, is not enough for a person to handle the marriage 
responsibilities; rushd (maturity of mind) is equally important. On the other hand, our 
present way of life has become so much complicated that a considerable gap has appeared 
between puberty and maturity both in financial and social affairs. A recent article on the 
American youths says, "[Y]oung Americans entering the 21st century are far less mature than 

their ancestors were at the beginning of the 20th. The difference is evident in all areas of 
youthful development: sex, love, marriage, education and work. Physically, today's youths 
are maturing earlier than previous generations, but emotionally they are taking much longer 
to develop adult attachments." {Newsweek, Special Edition Spring 1990, p. 55) 

Consequently, it is not easy for boys and girls of our atomic era to marry as soon as they 
become physically mature. 


What can the Muslims do about their next generation? In spite of the problem mentioned 
above, I believe there are ways by which Muslim youths in their late teens can get married 
without worrying about the financial aspect. Here I can suggest four possibilities:- 


If the parents are well to do and can support their young married children till they are 
financially independent, then I would strongly suggest that they encourage their children to 
marry and support them till they can stand on their own feet. While talking about the contract 
of freedom made between a slave and his master, the Qur'an says, . . and give them of the 
wealth of Allah which He has given you... " (24:33) 

If Islam puts so much emphasis on financially supporting one's freed slave so that he may 
stand on his own feet, it is needless to say how virtuous it would be to help one's own 
children to stand on their feet! 


On a broader level, the Muslim organizations should create funds (e.g., long term interest- 
free loans) to support the young Muslims who want to get married but lack financial 
resources. Once a person guilty of indecent sexual behavior was brought to Imam 'All. After 
punishing him, the Imam arranged for his marriage at the expenses of the government. The 
Imam set an example of how the society can help the youths in starting a family life. By 
looking at the situation in the Western world, the Muslim organizations should at least 
morally feel obliged to provide such support for their youths. This is not a matter of charity, 
it is a matter of surviving as a Muslim community in a morally hostile environment. 


The boy and the girl can do their 'aqd (Islamic marriage contract) but postpone the marriage 
ceremony till after they have finished their education. In other words, they would be married 
but still staying with their parents. They can meet each other without any shar'i objection; 
and if they decide to have sexual relations, then they should use permissible contraceptive 
means to delay the child-bearing process. In this way, they would be able to fulfill their 
sexual desire and be free from financial responsibilities. 


The boy and the girl can do their 'aqd and even the marriage ceremony but delay the child- 
bearing process AND adopt a very simple life-style. Thus they will be able to fulfill their 
sexual desire and also be free from heavy financial burden. 

However, I cannot overemphasize the importance of the role played by parents in supervision 
of all such arrangements. I would not at all support the idea that a boy and a girl decide such 
matters on their own without the parents' input or without registering such arrangements at 
the community center. This will protect the reputation of the girl in case things do not work 
out properly. 

Moreover, what I have suggested above also means that parents and youngsters both will 
have to radically change their outlook towards the materialistic aspect of life. They will have 
to adopt a very simple life-style. If today's youths intend to have a 'standard' financial footing 
before getting into marriage, then it will not be possible in the late teens; they will have to 
wait till they are in their thirties! The article mentioned above says that the youths "are 
marrying later than their parents did partly for economic reasons and many college graduates 
are postponing marriage beyond age 30." ( Newsweek , p. 55) 

One important benefit of these suggestions is that a youngster of college age will be free 
from sexual anxieties and will be able to concentrate fully on his or her studies. If a Muslim 
youth raised in the Western society without any religious upbringing is not provided with 
financial and moral support by his parents, then he is at risk of melting into the permissive 
culture that tolerates teenage sex outside marriage. And if this happens, God forbid, the 
youth will no longer regard a sexual relationship as a matter of value or commitment. 

"Most of us got one-night stands out of our system in college," writes Nancy Smith, 25, in a 
recent essay for the Washington Post on her generation's struggle with adulthood. "Sex 
outside a relationship is not so much a matter of right or wrong as: Is it really worth the 
hassle?" ( Newsweek , p. 55) And this type of sexual behavior has serious social consequences: 
abortions, unwanted babies, increase in divorce ratio and single parent families. Add to this 
the emotional suffering the people in general and the children in particular go through in 
such crises. 


If a person cannot marry soon after becoming sexually and mentally mature, then how should 
he or she handle the sexual urge? In this section we will survey some ways of fulfilling the 
sexual urge and see whether they are permitted by Islam or not. 


(A) Pre-Marital Sex 

Pre-marital sex is absolutely forbidden in Islam, no matter whether it is with a girl-friend or a 
prostitute. Pre-marital sex is fornication (zina). 

It is also an irresponsible sexual behavior There is no responsibility involved in such 
relationships. The most vulnerable person in such relationships is the woman. Statistics can 
overwhelmingly prove that man has often cheated innocent women in pre-marital sex. Today 
half of all American men and women in their thirties cohabited before marriage, many of 
them on the assumption that it is better to look deeply before they leap. But studies now 
demonstrate that couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce than those 
who do not. ( Newsweek , p. 57) 

Glen Elder, a sociologist at University of North Carolina, has this to say about cohabitation: 
"It's a relationship that attracts those, mainly men, who are looking for an easy way out and it 
is uncertain what, if anything, it contributes to marriage." A twenty-four year old lady wrote 
the following in a letter to Ann Landers: "...The line [in a previous letter] that struck home 
was from the teenager who said she knew lots of girls her age who had several partners 'just 
for the fun of it.' I found that odd because I was having sex at 16 and it was no fun at all. 
Sleeping with guys wasn't exciting or thrilling, it was degrading. It made me feel lonelier and 
emptier than ever. I also worried from month to month about being pregnant. That can be a 
real hell... if I could talk to the young girls who read your column, I would tell them that 
teenage sex doesn't solve problems, it creates more. It doesn't make a girl feel loved. It makes 
her feel cheap. I'd let them know that it doesn't make a girl 'more of a woman,' it can make 
her less of one." ( The Vancouver Sun, Dec. 5, 1989) 

Allah says: Do not go near adultery, .surely it is an indecency, and an evil way [of fulfilling 
sexual urge]. (17:32) Fornication and adultery have severely been condemned in the saying 
of the Prophet and the Imams. In Islam, pre-marital sex is considered an immoral act against 
the rights of Allah and one's own sexual organs. 

Pre-marital sex is a sin punishable by the Islamic court. If an unmarried man and an 
unmarried woman are found guilty of fornication in an Islamic court, their punishment will 
be as the following: The woman and the man who fornicate scourge each of them a hundred 
whips; and in the matter of God s religion, let no tenderness for them seize you if you believe 
in God and the Last Day; and let a party of the believers witness their punishment. (24:2) If 
the unmarried man or woman commit fornication more than once, then they will be punished 
three times by hundred wipes, and if they are proven guilty for the fourth time, then they will 
be put to death. (See the chapter on "hudud" in Sharaya' and Sharh Lum'a also a;-Khu'i, 
Takmilah, p. 37-8) (As for adultery, its punishment is even more severe because married 
persons have no excuse, whatsoever, to commit adultery. The shard ah says that married 
persons guilty of adultery should be stoned to death.) 

Therefore, pre-marital sex is out of the question as a means of fulfilling the sexual urge. 

(B) Masturbation 

In Islamic terminology, masturbation (istimna) means self-stimulation of the sexual organ till 
one achieves emission of semen or orgasm. Masturbation in form of self-stimulation is 
forbidden in Shi'ah fiqh. While describing the believers, the Qur'an says, "The believers are... 
those who protect their sexual organs except from their spouses... Therefore, whosoever 
seeks more beyond that [in sexual gratification], then they are the transgressors. " (23:5-6) 
The last sentence makes it very clear that any sexual gratification outside marriage is 
considered a transgression of the law of God. And this verse also implies that sex is an act in 
which two people are involved. Once when Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq was asked about 
masturbation, he recited this very verse and mentioned masturbation as one of its examples. 
(Wasa'il, vol. 18, p. 575) In another, the Imam was asked about masturbation; he said, "It is 
an indecent act..." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 267; vol. 18, pp. 574-5) 

Masturbation is a sin for which a person can also be punished by the Islamic court. Of 
course, the nature of the punishment is upon the judge's discretion. Once a person was caught 
masturbating and was brought to Imam 'Ali. The Imam punished him by beating on his hands 
until it turned red; then he made arrangement for his marriage on government's expenses. 

( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 267; vol. 18, pp. 574-5) 

These days some scientists are telling us that there is no harm in masturbation, rather it is a 
natural act. To prove that it is natural, they give examples of some wild animals, like 
monkeys. Actually they represent those who have gone to the other extreme of sexual 
morality. They have degraded human beings to the level of wild animals, and then justify 
their deeds by finding examples in the animal world. They are, in Qur'anic expression, "like 
cattle, nay they are more astray; they are the heedless ones. " (7: 179) The irony is that when 
Muslims talk about following Islam which came just 1400 years ago, they are labeled by the 
secularists as 'reactionaries,' 'those who want to turn the clock backwards,' 'anti -progress,' 
and now these very people are going millions of years back (according to their own 
counting) and following the wild animals or the primitive societies to determine what is 
natural for us and what is not natural ! 

Many different types of sexual behavior could be found in primitive societies, but that does 
not automatically make it natural or right. On the contrary, in some cases, masturbation was 
considered an abnormal and abhorrent act! For example, Lewis Cutlow writes about the 
Amazon Indians that: 

...Xinguanos are deeply disturbed by civilizados who are sexually frustrated; they 
cannot understand how a man can become aroused at the sight of a nude woman. In 
his 25 years of daily life with Indians, Orlando told me, he had never seen an Indian 
with an erection. It would be absurd to them. Nor has Orlando seen or heard any 
instances of sexual deviation among the Indians. They did not know what 
masturbation was until they saw a civilizado telegraph operator doing it. From then on 
the telegraph operator was a problem to Orlando and his colleagues at the Park. The 

Indians despised him because, in their eyes, he had done something reprehensible. 

There was nothing to do but remove him from the Park. ( The Twilight of the 

Primitive, p. 16-7 as quoted in Sex and Destiny, p. 88) 

Sometimes the scientists justify masturbation by saying that many people do it! But if a 
majority does something, it does not automatically prove that it is right. Otherwise, drugs 
should also be declared 'normal' because the majority of Americans, at one time or another, 
took drugs. The surveys made by sexologists like Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, and the Hite 
Report just reveal what the American people do in the privacy of their bedroom; it does not 
necessarily prove that what they do is natural and right! 

Many modern psychologists say that masturbation is just like normal sexual intercourse, 
rather even better because you are master of yourself, you don't have to worry about your 
partner's feelings ! This is an example of how low the materialist society has sunk into its self- 
centered and selfish attitude that even in sex it prefers to seek self-gratification with the 
exclusion of the spouse. "They seem to forget that in sexual intercourse all the senses 
contribute to the stimulation and orgasm: Man and woman see their partner, touch each 
other, say endearing words to each other and hear the stimulating sounds; and even the 
senses of smell and taste are utilized. And the penetration of male organ into the female leads 
to the final excitement and orgasm. But in masturbation the only source of stimulation is 
imagination, in which no other sense takes any part. The whole burden is loaded upon the 
mind; and, as a result, while normal sexual intercourse causes happiness and joy, 
masturbation creates emotional and psychological depression." (Rizvi, S.S.A., Your 
Questions Answered, vol. 3, p. 40-1) 

This is not just an opinion of a Muslim scholar. Even the Hite Report on Male Sexuality, 
says: "Similarly, many men said that they enjoyed masturbating physically, but that 
emotionally it was depressing." ( The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, p. 489) In one of the 
replies, a man writes: "It is physically enjoyable, but it can leave one emotionally empty or 
lonely for the real thing. You can do it when you feel like it, come when you want, bring up 
your own images, but there is no warmth or closeness, no one to share pleasure with, no 
companionship. . . "{The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, p. 489) After saying that the 
physical effects of masturbation are negligible, Leslie D. Weatherhead in The Mastery of Sex 
writes: "Psychologically the results are more serious. Masturbation in the adult is nearly 
always due to a maladjustment..." {The Mastery of Sex, p. 103) 

THE CURE FOR MASTURBATION: It is easy to stay away from fornication because it 
involves another person. But the danger of getting into the habit of masturbation is always 
there, therefore it is necessary to know how to combat this perverted sexual behavior. The 
following is a guide-line for releasing a person from the habit of masturbation. This has been 
taken from Weatherhead's The Mastery of Sex and 'Allamah Rizvi's Your Questions 

1. Strengthening will-power. This is possible only if one honestly and sincerely wants to get 

rid of this habit. Pray to Allah to help you overcome this habit, concentrate on religious 
teachings, and build up the spirit of taqwa, piety. 

2. More and more stay in the company of other persons: If in the daytime you feel like 
masturbating, get up from your bed or chair and get into the presence of other people and talk 
to them. If it happens at bedtime, sit up in bed, read a book or write a letter. Do something to 
switch your mind on to other things. 

3. Adopt some hobby or sports which will provide you with an outlet for the energies of your 

(C) Homosexuality 

One way of fulfilling the sexual urge which is now becoming acceptable in the Western 
world is sexual relations between members of the same sex: homosexuality (which by 
definition includes lesbianism). By saying that it is becoming acceptable in liberal societies I 
do not mean to say that homosexuality is a 20th century phenomenon; no, not at all. But 
there is one big difference between the past and the present: in the past, homosexuality was 
considered a perverted sexual behavior whereas now it is being labeled as 'natural' and as a 
result of 'inborn tendency' ! 

All revealed religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam form a united front against such 
sexual behavior. It has been clearly condemned in the Bible and the Qur'an. The Qur'an 
describes the people of Lut (Lot) as follows: 

When We sent Lut, he said to his people, "What! do you commit the indecency which 
none in all the nations had committed before you? Look at you! You approach the 
men lustfully instead of approaching your women! No, you are a people who have 
exceeded the limits." The only answer of his people was that they said, 'Expel them 
from your city, surely they are a people who seek to keep themselves clean!" So We 
delivered him and his followers, except his wife; she was one of those who tarried 
behind. We sent upon them a rain. So behold how was the end of the guilty people. 

The Qur'an also describes how Prophet Lut tried to reason with his people when they 
approached his three guests (who were actually angels in human form): 

When the people of Lut saw the handsome young men, they came to him, running 
towards him. Lut had anticipated this because they had been doing evil deeds from 

When the people reached close to his house, Lut said pointing towards his daughters 
that, "O my people! These are my daughters, they are purer for you. Fear Allah and 

do not disgrace me in regard to my guests. Isn't there among you a man of right 

They said, "You know better that we have no desire for your daughters; and you 
surely know what we desire." (11 :78-79) 

Explaining the details of the punishment, Allah says, 

So when Our punishment came upon the people ofLut, We turned the city upside 
down and showered them with stones of baked clay, one after another.(l 1:82) 

So we see that as far as the Qur'an is concerned, homosexuality is an "indecency," and that 
Allah had destroyed a whole nation because of this indecent sexual behavior. 

In the Islamic legal system, homosexuality is a punishable crime against the laws of God. In 
the case of homosexuality between two males, the active partner is to be lashed a hundred 
times if he is unmarried and killed if he is married; whereas the passive partner is to be killed 
regardless of his marital status. In the case of two females (i.e., lesbianism), the sinners are to 
be lashed a hundred times if they are unmarried and stoned to death if they are married. (See 
the chapter on "hudud" in Sharaya and Shark Lum'a also al-Khu’i, Takmilah, p. 42-44. 

Why is Islam so severe in matters of fornication, homosexuality and lesbianism? If the 
Islamic system had not allowed the gratification of the sexual urge by lawful means (without 
even associating guilt with it), then it would be right to say that Islam is very severe. But 
since it has allowed the fulfillment of sexual instincts by lawful means, it is not prepared to 
tolerate any perverted behavior. 

The homosexuals are considered as the high risk group for Acquired Immune Deficiency 
Syndrome (AIDS). This shows that nature has not accepted it as a normal sexual behavior 
among mankind. The homosexuals are told that in order to have safe sex, they must use 
condoms. If homosexuality without condoms is not safe sex, then how can it be natural? Isn’t 
the statement that "it is natural but not safe" a contradiction in itself? 

The moral bankruptcy of the West is clearly evident in the present trend where some 
Christian churches are willing to consider modifying the Biblical moral values to 
accommodate the whims of those who want to justify their immoral behavior! A high 
ranking Anglican cleric in Canada says that it's time his church approved some form of 
service or rite that would bless the union of committed same sex couples. (See the statement 
of The Very Rev. Duncan Abraham. Dean of St. James Cathedral in Toronto. The Toronto 
Sun, Nov. 24, 1993.) After a three-hour debate in 1987, the General Synod of the Church of 
England "decided that homosexuality is wrong, but has refused to condemn it as a sin." (The 
Globe & Mail (Toronto) Nov. 12, 1987) It seems that instead of providing moral and ethical 
leadership, the church is being led by the special interest groups. Such groups even want the 

public schools to change the definition of family so as to make their life-style acceptable. 


If a Muslim cannot marry soon after puberty, then he or she just has two options: temporary 
abstinence or temporary marriage. 

(A) Temporary Abstinence 

Islam has allowed marriage as soon as a person becomes physically mature, and it also 
strongly recommends that at least during the early years of marriage to adopt a simple life- 
style so that the lack or paucity of financial resources does not obstruct a happy life. 

But if a person decides, for whatever reason, not to marry soon after he or she becomes 
physically mature, then the only way is to adopt temporary abstinence. After strongly 
recommending the marriage of single people, the Qur'an says, 'And those who cannot marry 
should practice restrain (or abstinence ) till Allah enriches them out of His bounty. " (24:33) 

However, abstinence from all the forbidden ways of fulfilling the sexual urge is not easy. 
Therefore, a few guide-lines would not be out of place. Once a man came to the Prophet and 
said, "I do not have the (financial) ability to marry; therefore, I have come to complain about 
my singleness." The Prophet advised him how to control his sexual urge by saying, "Leave 
the hair of 

your body and fast continuously." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 178) By saying that "leave the hair of 
your body," the Prophet is asking not to remove the hair which grows on pubic area, chest, 
etc, by shaving or using lotion or wax; rather one should just trim the hair. 

This hadith is indicating that removing the excessive hair increases one's sexual urge. 
(Probably, that is why the shari'ah has recommended the men to shave the excessive hair 
every forty days, and the women to remove the excessive hair by lotion or cream every 
twenty days.) In retrospect, it means that not removing the hair will decrease the sexual 
desire and help the person in abstinence. Imam 'Ali says, "Whenever a person's hair 
increases, his sexual desires have also decreased." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 178) I have not yet 
come across any scientific discussion on the relationship between removing of the hair and 
sexual urge, but I am told that the hakims believed that removing the hair from the pubic area 
increased the chances of direct pressure on that area and, consequently, the blood flow to the 
sexual organs. 

The other method of decreasing the sexual urge is fasting. It is obvious that one of the 
greatest benefits of fasting is the strengthening of one's will power. And no doubt, abstinence 
in the sexual context mostly depends on the will-power of the person. So fasting will 
strengthen the will-power of the person and make it easier for him or her to restrain the 
sexual feelings. 

(B) Temporary Marriage (Mut ’a) 

If a person does not marry soon after maturing and finds it difficult to control his or her 
sexual desire, then the only way to fulfill the sexual desire is mut'a. 

In Islamic laws, according to the Shi'ah fiqh, marriage is of two types: da'im, permanent and 
munqati', temporary. The munqati' marriage is also known as mut'a. This is not the place to 
discuss the legality or the illegality of the temporary marriage (mut'a). It will suffice to say 
that even according to Sunni sources, mut'a was allowed in Islam till the early days of the 
caliphate of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. It was in the latter period of his rule that 'Umar declared 
mut'a as haram. It goes without saying that a decision by 'Umar has no value in front of the 
Qur'an and the sunnah ! 

As for the relevance of the mut'a system in modern times, I will just quote what Sachiko 
Murata, a Japanese scholar, wrote in her thesis on this subject: "Let me only remark that the 
modern West has not come near to solving all the legal problems that have grown up because 
of relatively free sexual relationships in contemporary society. If any real solution to these 
problems is possible, perhaps a certain inspiration may be drawn from a legal system such as 
mut'a which, with its realistic appraisal of human nature, has been able to provide for the 
rights and responsibilities of all parties." (Murata, Temporary Marriage in Islamic Laws 
(Qum: Ansariyan, 1991) p. 4. For a detailed discussion on the social aspect of mut’a, see 
Mutahhari, The Rights of Women in Islam (Tehran: WOFIS, 1981) and on the legal aspect, 
see Kashifu '1-Ghita', The Origin of Shi' ite Islam and Its Principles (Qum: Ansariyan). For an 
in depth study on the Qur'anic verse and ahadith of mut'a, see at-Tabataba'i al-Mizan, vol. 8 
(English translation) pp. 130-161.) 

The main difference between the two types of marriage is that in permanent marriage, Islam 
has clearly defined the duties and obligations between the spouses. For example, it is the 
duty of the husband to provide the basic necessities of life for his wife and the wife is 
expected to not refuse sexual relations without any religious or medical reason. But in 
temporary marriage, Islam has given the prospective spouses the right of working out their 
own duties and expectation plans. For example, the husband is not obliged to maintain the 
wife unless it has been so stipulated in the marriage contract. Likewise, the wife can put a 
condition in the marriage contract that there will be no sexual relations. (Al-Khui, Minhaj, 
vol. 2, p. 267) Such conditions are invalid in a permanent marriage but allowed in temporary 

I cannot overemphasize the temporary nature of mut'a. The message of Islam is quite 
clear: marry on a permanent basis; if that is not possible, then adopt temporary 
abstinence; if that is not possible, only then use the mut'a marriage. 

The temporary nature of mut'a can also be seen from the following saying of the Imams: 
Once 'Ali bin Yaqtin, a prominent Shi'ah who held a high post in ' Abbasid government, 
came to Imam Ali ar-Riza to ask about mut'a. The Imam said, "What have you to do with it 
because Allah has made you free from its need." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 449) He has also said, 

"It is permitted and absolutely allowed for the one whom Allah has not provided with the 
means of permanent marriage so that he may be chaste by performing mut'a. ( Wasa'il , vol. 
14, p. 449-450) 

Chapter Three 

The Islamic Sexual Morality (2) 
Its Structure 


In this section, we shall discuss some general laws and rules concerning marriage, marriage 
ceremony, practical aspect of sex within marriage and some of the often asked questions. 


Islam places certain restrictions as far as the choice of your spouse is concerned. These 
restrictions are based on blood relationships and religious affiliations of the person. 

(A) Restrictions based on Relationship 

There are certain blood relations which are considered haram for you as far as marriage is 
concerned. (As a general rule, anyone who is your mahrarn is forbidden to you for marriage. 
Mahram means a blood-relative in whose presence hijab is not required.) The list of such 
relatives is given in the Qur'an as follows: 

For Man mother daughter paternal aunt maternal aunt niece foster-mother foster-sister mother- 
in-law step-daughter daughter-in-law all married women sister-in-law (as a 2nd wife) (See the 
Qur'an, ch. 4, verse 23-24) 

For Woman father son paternal uncle maternal uncle nephew foster-mother's husband foster- 
brother father-in-law step-son son-in-law 

It worth noting that cousins have not been included in this list which means that: firstly, 
cousins are not mahram to each other, so hijab has to be observed between them; secondly, 
cousins can marry each other. 

(B) Restrictions based on Religion 

Marriage between two people who do not follow the same religion creates problems in the 
day-to-day life of the couple because no aspect of our life is outside the jurisdiction of the 
Islamic shari'ah. Consequently restriction in marriage based on religious differences is quite 

A Shi'ah Muslim Man 

• can marry: 

a Shi'ah Muslim woman, 
a non-Shi'ah Muslim woman. 

however, if there is danger of being misled, then it is haram. 
a Jewish or Christian woman in mut’a only. 

• cannot marry: a woman of any other faith. 

A Shi'ah Muslim Woman 

• can marry: 

a Shi'ah Muslim man. 
a non-Shi'ah Muslim man, 

although it is better not to do so; and if there is danger of being misled, 
then it is haram. 

• cannot marry: a non-Muslim man. 


(A) Do parents have any right over the marriage of their children? 

The father and paternal grandfather have full authority over the children who have not yet 
reached the age of puberty. 

When a child reaches the age of puberty, then there are three different situations: 

(a) a child who is baligh but not mentally mature: in this case, the father and the grandfather 
still have their authority over him or her. Such a child cannot take a decision on marriage 
without the approval of the father or the grandfather. 

(b) a male child who is baligh and also mentally mature: in this case, he has full right to 
decide about his own marriage. 

(c) a girl who is baligh and mentally mature: There are four different opinions on this issue. 
(Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, Sharaya', p. 500: Shahid ath-Thani, Shark Lum'ah, vol. 2. p. 71. ) But the 
majority of the present mujtahids say that in her first marriage, a baligha and mentally mature 
girl cannot marry without the permission of her father or grandfather. And if such a girl had 
already married before, then she has full right to decide for herself in the case of her second 
marriage. (Al-Yazdi. al-'Urwah, p. 654; al-Khui, Minhaj, vol. 2. p 255: al-Khumayni. Tahrir, 
vol. 2. p. 254; for details, see ash-Shahid ath-Thani, Masalik, vol. 1, p 449-452. ) 

This law is in place to act as an extra protection for the honor of a teenage girl. However, if 
the father or grandfather refuses to give his consent to a proposal of a suitable man, then a 
religious judge can over-ride the decision of her father or grandfather. Similarly, if the father 
or grandfather is inaccessible, then there is no need for his permission. 

(B) By considering the hijab in Islam, is a boy permitted to look at the girl before marrying 

A man is allowed to see without hijab the woman whom he intends to marry. However, this 
permission is just for the man or the woman to see the prospective spouse once; (Muhaqqiq al- 
Hilli, Sharaya', p. 493; Shahid ath-Thani, S'harh Lum'ah, vol. 2, p. 67; al-Yazdi, al-'Urwah, 
p. 625; al-Khu'i, Minhaj, vol. 2, p. 253; al-Khumayni, Tahrir, vol. 2, p. 254: 'Allamah al-Hilli, 
Tazkirah, vol. 2, p. 572; Shaykh at-Tusi, an-Nihayah, p. 484.) it is not a perpetual license to 
go out together! I strongly recommend that such a meeting should take place with the 
supervision of the parent or the guardian. 

(C) Can a boy and a girl who are engaged meet each other or go out together ? 

In Islam, there is no ceremony known as engagement. According to the shari'ah, engagement 
is a revocable agreement between two persons to marry each other, nothing more; it does not 
make the two persons mahram to each other. They still have to observe the rules of hijab. But 
if two persons who are engaged wish to meet each other, then the only way to legalize that 
Islamically is by performing mut'a marriage between the fiance and the fiancee. They can 
even put a condition in the mut'a that there will be no sexual relations. This way, they will be 
able to meet each other without any objection from the shari'ah. This method can be adopted 
by those also who wish to go through the engagement ceremony in which the fiance puts a 
ring on the fiancee's finger. 

However, as mentioned earlier, a girl who has not married before will need her father's or 
grandfather's approval even in such a mut'a marriage. 

3. THE 'AQD 

In the Islamic shari'ah, marriage is an 'aqd, a contract. 

As a contract, it depends on ijab (proposal from the bride) and qubul (acceptance from the 
groom). The contract can be verbally made by the parties themselves or by their 

representatives . The language of this contract must be Arabic. Although just one sentence for 
proposal (like ankahtuka nafsi = I have given myself to you in marriage) and one word for 
acceptance (like qabiltu = I have accepted) is enough but it is the norm to solemnize the 
marriage by using all forms of legal terms for this purpose; for example, ankhatu, zawwajtu 
together with the mentioning of mahr; sidaq, etc. It is also recommended to begin with a 
sermon ( khutba ) praising Allah, subhanahu wa ta ala, asking for His blessings on Prophet 
Muhammad and his progeny, and also reciting a Qur'anic verse and a couple of ahadith on 
virtue of marriage. 

One of the necessary conditions of an Islamic marriage contract is mahr. Mahr is usually 
translated as dowry, and it means the marriage gift which the groom agrees to give to the 
bride. It is actually the right of the bride and it is for her to specify or fix the mahr, and for the 
groom to either accept it or negotiate with his prospective bride. 

The mahr can consist of a material item or a benefit (like training for something); it can be 
paid up front or can be in form of promise to pay upon demands decided prior to the 
solemnization of marriage. 


(A) When to marry? 

Are there any special days in the Islamic calendar when marriage is encouraged or 
discouraged? Basically marriage is allowed at all times. However, there are some days on 
which marriage is not recommended; some of these are based on ahadith and some on 
cultural, historical reasons. 

Generally, we can categorize these days into three: (a) There are some ahadith which say that 
it is makruh (not recommended) to have a marriage ceremony on the days when the moon is 
in the constellation of the Scorpio (this is known as al-qamar fil aqrab or qamar dar aqrab), 
during the last two or three days of the lunar months, and on Wednesdays, (b) There are some 
ahadith which say that certain days of each month are ill omen days ( nahas)\ these days are 
the 3rd, 5th, 13th, 16th, 21st, 24th and 25th of lunar months. 

However, the ahadith for both the above categories would not stand the scrutiny of the 
scholars of hadith. Our mujtahids do not normally apply their full expertise in matters not 
related to obligatory or prohibitive commands. They relax the criteria for acceptability of 
ahadith in matters related to sunnat and makruh acts. This is not done out of negligence or 
lack of interest, it is done on the basis of a widely accepted rule in usulu 'l-fiqh (the Principles 
of Jurisprudence) known as qa'idatu't-tasamuh, that is, the rule of leniency (in ascertaining 
the acceptability of hadith ). (For more information on qa'idatu't-tasamuh, the specialist 
readers may refer to as-Sadr, Durusfi 'Ilmi 'l-Usul, vol. 2 p 204 and vol. 3 (part 1) p 258 and 
an-Naraqi's Awa'idu 'l-Ayyam, pp. 269-271.) 

This has been mentioned very clearly by Ayatullah al-Khu'i in his manual of fatwas. He says, 
"Most of the mustahab acts mentioned in the chapters of this book are based on the qa'idatu't- 
tasamuh in sources of the sunnat acts. Therefore, whatever has not been proved as sunnat in 
our view should be done with intention of raja'il matlubiyyah. The same applies to the 
makruh acts; these should be abstained from with the intention of raja'il 
matlubiyyah. " ( Minhaj , vol. 1, p. 14. Raja 'i 'l-matlubiyyah means doing something not 
because it is sunnat but with the intention that it might be expected of us to do so. ) 

As far as the two categories for marriage days are concerned, it will suffice to quote Ayatullah 
Gulpaygani, one of the leading mujtahids of our time who says: "One may follow these 
mustahab and makruh acts with the intention of raja 'il matlubiyyah, because there is no clear 
evidence for some of these things." (See his annotations on al-'Urwatu 'l-Wuthqa, p. 623. ) 

(c) There are certain days of the Islamic calendar which have become associated with the 
early events of the Islamic history; for example, the 10th of Muharram is the day of mourning 
for the massacre at Karbala or the day of the Prophet's death in Safar, etc. Since such days are 
commemorated by the Muslims as days of mourning, it is socially and, to some extent, 
religiously not recommended to have a marriage ceremony on such days. 

(B) The Wedding Night: 

I must explain why I have written wedding 'night' and not 'day'. The hadith says, "Take the 
bride to her new home during the night." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 62) Based on this saying, it is 
recommended that the wedding should take place at night. After all, Allah has made the night 
"so that you may rest in it. " (10: 67) 

After the bride has entered the room, the groom is recommended to take off the bride's shoes, 
wash her feet (in a washbowl) and then sprinkle the water around the room. 

Then the groom should do wuzu and pray two rak'at sunnat prayer and then recite the 
following du'a: 

Allahummar zuqni ulfataha wa wuddaha wa rizaha bi; war zini biha, waj ma' baynana 
bi ahsani ijtima'in wa anfasi i'tilafin; fa innaka tuhibbul halal wa tukrihul haram. 

O Allah! bless me with her affection, love and her acceptance of me; and make me 
pleased with her, and bring us together in the best form of a union and in absolute 
harmony; surely You like lawful things and dislike unlawful things. 

Then he should ask the bride to do wuzu and pray two rak'at sunnat prayer. 

When they are ready to go to bed, the groom should put his hand on the bride's forehead and 
pray the following du'a while facing the qiblah. (So don't forget your qiblah compass!) 

Allahumma bi amanatika akhaztuha wa bi kalimatika s-tahlaltuha. Fa in qazayta li 
minha waladan, faj-'alhu mubarakan taqiyyan min Shi'ati Al-i Muhammad (sal-lal-lahu 
alayhi wa alihi wa sallam) wa la taj-'al lish Shaytani fihi shirkan wa la nasiba. 

O Allah! I have taken her as Your trust and have made her lawful for myself by Your 
words. Therefore, if you have decreed for me a child from her, then make him/her 
blessed and pious from among the followers of the Family of Muhammad [peace be 
upon him and them] ; and do not let the Satan have any part in him/her. 

Al-'Urwah. p. 624. 

Is it necessary to have sexual intercourse on the very first night after the wedding or can it be 
delayed? As far as the shari' ah is concerned, it is neither obligatory nor forbidden to have sex 
on the first night. It is a private decision between the newly wed couple; it has nothing to do 
with others. However, I must say that the groom should take the feelings of his bride into 
consideration; after all, she is new to him and to the surroundings. 


(A) Is sex forbidden at any time in marriage ? 

Yes, by considering the discomfort for the women during the monthly periods, Islam has 
forbidden both the husband and the wife from engaging in sexual intercourse during 

The Qur'an says: 

They ask you about menstruation. Say: "Menstruation is a discomfort (for women). Do 
not establish sexual relations with them during the menses and do not approach them 
(sexually) until the blood stops. Then when they have cleansed themselves, you go into 
them as Allah has commanded you. " (2:222) 

According to the shark ah, the duration of the monthly period is between three to ten days. If 
the bleeding was for less than three days, it is not menstruation; if it is for more than ten days, 
then it is menstruation for ten days and then it is counted as istihazah, irregular bleeding 
during which sex is permitted. (For further details, see my Ritual Ablutions for Women.) 

The prohibition of sex during the periods is limited strictly to sexual intercourse; other 
intimate contact (with the exception of the vagina and anus) is allowed. However, it is better 
not to play with her body between the navel and the knees. 

If a person who is engaged in sexual intercourse with his wife discovers that her period has 

begun, then he should immediately withdraw from her. 

It is clear from the verse mentioned above (until the blood stops ) that once the blood has 
stopped, intercourse becomes lawful even if the woman has not performed the major ritual 
ablution (ghusl). But on the basis of the subsequent sentence ( then when they have cleansed 
themselves...), most mujtahids say that it is better to refrain from intercourse till she performs 
the ghusl or, at least, washes her private parts. ( Wasa'il , vol. 1, p. 576) 

Sexual intercourse is also not allowed during the post-natal bleeding (10 days), during 
daytime in the month of Ramadhan, and when a person is in ihram during the pilgrimage to 
Mecca. At all other times, sexual intercourse is allowed. 

(B) Is it discouraged (makruh) to have sex at any time or on any day ? 

There are certain ahaclith which say that sexual intercourse during some days and at some 
times is makruh , but not haram. 

These days and times are as follows: 

i. during frightful natural occurrences, e.g., eclipse, hurricane, earthquake; 

ii . from sunset till maghrib; 

ii. from dawn till sunrise; 

iii. the last three nights of lunar months; 

iv. eve of the 15th of every lunar month; 

v. eve of 10th Zil-hijjah; 
vii. after becoming junub. 

Some of these are self-explanatory: I don't think any one would be in the mood for sexual 
intercourse during a hurricane or earthquake. The second and third examples are of the prayer 
times; obviously, a Muslim is expected to spend that time in meditation and prayer. One must 
remember, firstly, that it is makruh, not haram, to have sexual intercourse at these times. 
Secondly, the ahaclith for such issues have been accepted on basis of the qa'idatu 't-tasamuh 
mentioned earlier. Thirdly, the reasons given for this karahat are mostly about possible 
deformity of a child conceived at that time. By looking at these reasons, I am inclined to 
restrict this karahat only in cases of couples who plan to have children, and not extend it to 
those who practice birth control. 

I would therefore advise the readers to be considerate to your spouse and not to put him or her 
in unnecessary tension; It your spouse is very sensitive about these makruh days then try to 
accommodate your likes and dislikes accordingly. Mutual understanding is the key. 

(A) Are there days and times when sexual intercourse is recommended? 

Yes we have certain ahadith which say that it is better to have sexual intercourse at these 

i. Sunday night; 

ii. Monday night; 

iii. Wednesday night; 

iv. Thursday noon; 

v. Thursday night; 

vi. Friday evening; 

vii. whenever the wife wants to have sex. 

Thursday and Friday are weekends in the Islamic calendar! 

(A) Are there times when it is obligatory (wajib) to have sexual intercourse ? 

Yes! It is wajib on man to have sex with his wife at least once in every four months; this is 
considered as one of the conjugal rights of the wife. This obligation stays in force unless there 
is a valid excuse or the wife waives her right. 


Before I start writing anything about sexual techniques, it is necessary to say that no rules and 
laws exist either in foreplay or in intercourse. The only laws and rules are the ones reached by 
the lovers by mutual and often unspoken understanding. Whatever is pleasing and satisfying 
to both the husband and the wife is right and proper; and whatever is mutually displeasing is 
wrong. The only I imitation to this general rule would be any shard ah rule which goes against 
the wishes of the husband or the wife. 

(A) Foreplay: 

Man often forgets that woman also has been created with the same desires as himself. Asbagh 
bin Nubatah quotes Imam 'Ali that, "Almighty God created sexual desires in ten parts; then 

He gave nine parts to women and one to men." But then Allah also gave them "equal parts of 
shyness." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 40) Many times this shyness makes the man ignore the desires 
of his wife. 

Based on this reality, Islam emphasizes on foreplay. Imam 'Ali says, "When you intend to 
have sex with your wife, do not rush because the woman (also) has needs (which should be 
fulfilled)." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 40) Sex without foreplay has been equated to cruelty. The 
Prophet said, "Three people are cruel: . ..a person who has sex with his wife before 
foreplay." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 40) Another hadith equates sex without foreplay to animal 
behavior: "When anyone of you has sex with his wife, then he should not go to them like 
birds; instead he should be slow and delaying." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 82) The Prophet said, "No 
one among you should have sex with his wife like animals; rather there should be a 
messenger between them." When asked about the messenger, he said, "It means kissing and 
talking." ( Tahzibu'l-Ihya , vol. 3, p. 110) Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq has been quoted as follows, "... 
there should be mutual foreplay between them because it is better for sex." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, 
p. 82) The Prophet said, "...every play of a believer is void except in three cases: horse-riding, 
archery and mutual foreplay with his wife these are haqq." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 83) 

As for the role of a woman in sexual foreplay, the Imams have praised a wife who discards 
shyness when she is with her husband. A hadith was quoted earlier from Imam 'Ali which 
said that women have been given nine-tenths of the sexual desire but Allah has also given 
them nine-tenths of shyness. (See p. 32) I had promised in Chapter Two to explain the 
rationale behind this hadith. There might seem to be a contradiction in this act of God, but it 
is not so. Both the sexual desire and the shyness have been placed for very specific purpose. 
The sexual desire is to be unleashed, yes unleashed, when a woman is with her husband, but it 
must be shielded with shyness when she is with other people. This has been very eloquently 
explained by Imam Muhammad al-Baqir when he said, "The best woman among you is the 
one who discards the armor of shyness when she undresses for her husband, and puts on the 
armor of shyness when she dresses up again." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 14-15) After all, modesty 
and chastity in public is the hallmark of a Muslim lady. 

These sayings clearly show that the husband and the wife should feel completely free when 
they are engaged in mutual stimulation which is known as foreplay. There is nothing wrong, 
according to Islam, for a woman to be active and responsive during sex. This is diametrically 
opposed to the sexual morality of the Christian Western world before the sexual revolution. 
Russell says, "Western women of a generation or two ago can recall being warned by their 
mothers that sexual intercourse was an unpleasant duty which they owed to their husbands, 
and that they were ’to lie still and think of England'. (As quoted in Sex and Destiny, p. 94) 
What else but a sexual revolt could such a morality breed? 

As for the Islamic shard ah, all the mujtahids are unanimous in saying that the act of sexual 
foreplay in itself is mustahab (recommended). Likewise, it is recommended not to rush into 
sexual intercourse. ( Al-'Urwah , p. 625) The operative word is mutual pleasure and 

(B) Techniques of Foreplay: 

As far as the methods of mutual stimulation in foreplay are concerned, the shari'ah allows the 
husband and the wife to see, kiss, touch, smell and stimulate any part of each other's body. 
Therefore, oral sex, as it is known in this part of the world is allowed. Imam Musa al-Kazim 
was once asked, "Can a person kiss his wife's vagina?" The Imam said, "No 
problem." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 77; for similar views of present mujtahids see al-'Urwah, p. 
625) The only restriction is that no foreign object should be used. And this restriction is quite 
understandable: nothing can really substitute the things Allah has created in our bodies! 

The restriction I am placing on the use of foreign objects is based on the following hadith. 
'Ubaydullah bin Zurarah says that he had an old neighbor who owned a young slave-girl. 
Because of his old age, he could not fully satisfy the young slave-girl during sexual 
intercourse. She would therefore ask him to place his fingers in her vagina as she liked it. The 
old man complied with her wishes even though he did not like this idea. So he requested 
'Ubaydullah to ask Imam ' Ali ar-Riza (a. s.) about it. When 'Ubaydullah asked the Imam 
about it, the Imam said, "There is no problem as long as he uses any part of his own body 
upon her, but he should not use any thing other than his body on her." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 77) 

In an earlier discussion, we said that masturbation (i.e., self- stimulation of one's own sexual 
organ till emission of semen or orgasm) is not allowed. However, in the case of married 
persons, there is no problem if the wife stimulates her husband's penis till the emission of 
semen or the husband stimulates his wife's vagina till orgasm. (This issue has also been 
clearly mentioned by the late Ayatullah al-Khu'i in answer to some questions sent by an 'alim 
from London) This is allowed because it does not come under "self-stimulation;" it is 
stimulation by a lawful partner. The Qur'an clearly says that, "The believers are.. . those who 
protect their sexual organs except from their spouses. " (23: 5-6) And stimulation of sexual 
organs by a lawful partner surely comes under the definition of protecting one's organ s 
"except from their spouses." 

(C) Sexual Intercourse: 

Is there any particular position for sexual intercourse which is forbidden in Islam? No! As far 
as the basic coital positions are concerned, there are no restrictions. I am using the term 'basic 
coital positions' for the positions known as the man above, face to face, woman above face to 
face; side position, face to face; rear-entry position in which the husband penetrates the 
vagina from the rear. Actually, the shari'ah has left it on the husband and the wife to explore 
and experiment as they wish. 

In the early Islamic period, an event took place which clarified this issue for all. The people of 
Medina, influenced by the Jews, used man-above face to face position during sexual 
intercourse; whereas the Meccans liked to experiment various positions. After the migration 
of Muslims to Medina, a Meccan married a Medinan woman and wanted to have sex with her 

in his own way. The woman refused and said that he can have sex with her only in one 
position. The case was reported to the Prophet; so Allah revealed the verse saying " Your 
women are a tilth for you, so go in to your tilth as you like. " (2:223) That is, in any position. 
(At-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan, vol. 3 (English translation) p. 319) 

However, it is makruh to adopt a standing position, or to face the qiblah or keep it on the 
backside during the intercourse. It is advisable to refrain from the acrobatic positions given by 
some sexologists of the East and the West which might even cause physical harm. Remember, 
the basic rule is mutual pleasure and flexibility. If one partner does not like a particular 
position, then the other should yield to his or her feelings. 

(D) Anal Intercourse: 

The opinions of our mujtahids vary on the permissibility of anal intercourse. Before 
mentioning the preferred and correct view, I would like to explain why the mujtahids have 
differed in their opinions. 

This variance in fatwas is because of the difference in the ahadith we have on this issue. 

There is a hadith, for example, from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq quoting the Prophet that "The anus 
of women is haram for my community." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 104) Now this hadith 
categorically forbids anal intercourse. But, according to 'Allamah al-Hilli and ash-Shahid ath- 
Thani, the chain of narrators of this hadith is not completely flawless. (See Hilli’s Tazkiratu'l- 
Fuqaha, vol. 2, p. 57 6-7 ; Shahid's Masalik, vol. 2, p. 303) On the other hand for example, we 
have a hadith from 'Abdullah bin Abi Y a'fur whose chain of narrators is authentic in which 
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq was questioned about a man who had had intercourse in the anus of his 
wife. The Imam said, "There is no problem in it if she agrees." ( Wasa'il 'sh-Shi'ah, vol. 14, p. 

When faced which such conflicting ahadith, most mujtahids have tried to bring them together 
by taking the apparently more authentic hadith (which approves anal intercourse) as a 
qualifier for the ahadith which totally forbid such sex. And in conclusion, they say that the 
prohibition in such ahadith is not on the level of haram, instead it is on the level of makruh. 
(See ash-Shahid ath-Thani, Sharh Lum'ah, vol. 2, p. 68 and Masalik, vol. 1, p. 438-9) 

This conclusion of theirs is supported by a third category of ahadith on this subject in which 
the Imams have clearly and strongly discouraged their followers from anal intercourse. An 
example can be found in the question asked by Safwan al-Jammal to Imam 'Ali ar-Riza (a.s.) 
in which the latter clearly expressed his personal dislike for such act. (Wasa'ilu 'sh-Shi'ah, vol. 
14, p. 102-103) 

Therefore the majority of the Shi'ah mujtahids have derived two conclusions: (1) that anal 
intercourse is not haram but strongly disliked ( karahatan shadidah ) provided the wife agrees 
to it. (2) and if she does not agree to it, then all mujtahids say that it is precautionarily wajib 
to refrain from it. (See th efatawa of all contemporary mujtahids in their annotations to 

al-'Urwatu'l-Wuthqa, p. 628) 

With all due respect to the great mujtahids who hold the above opinion, I would like to 
present the preferred opinion. It is true that we have conflicting ahadith from our Imams on 
anal intercourse, but the ahadith which approve anal intercourse are not suitable for deriving 
an opinion. Why? Because, in the case of conflicting ahadith , the mujtahid has to contrast 
them with the Sunni view prevalent at the time when the ahadith were issued by the Imams. 
And, then, those which agree with the Sunni view are to be considered as statements issued 
under taqiyyah and, therefore, not suitable for use in ijtihad. (For this methodology, the 
specialist reader may refer to Shaykh Murtaza al-Ansari, Rasa'il, p. 464-468) Using this 
method of solving the conflicting ahadith gives strength to the prohibitive ahadith and brings 
us to the preferred view that anal intercourse is not allowed. (For further details on this view, 
the specialist reader may refer to the late Ayatullah Syed Rahat Husayn al-Golalpuri, al- 
Intisarfi hurmati'l-adbar, Lucknow, al-Wa’iz Safdar Press, 1354 AH. To know the views of 
some prominent Sunnis of the Early Islamic period who approved anal intercourse, the 
English readers can refer to at-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan vol. 3 (English translation) pp. 320-321) 
Probably, it was such a consideration which caused the late Ayatullah al-Khu'i to change his 
view on this issue. During the last decade of his life, Ayatullah al-Khu'i departed from the 
majority view and gave the ruling that it was precautionarily wajib to abstain from anal 
intercourse no matter whether the wife agrees to it or not. (See al-Khu'i, Minhaju 's-Salihiyn, 
vol. 1 (Beirut: 22nd edition) p. 64) 

I would strongly advise against anal intercourse, and would like to end this section with the 
saying of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq and Imam 'Ali ar-Riza about anal intercourse: "Woman is a 
means of your pleasure, therefore do not harm her." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 101-102) 

(E) Decency & Privacy 

There was a time when people need not be reminded of some of the basic moral and ethical 
values, but now we are living in an era where moral values are changing like worn-out car 
tires ! 

One such issue is decency of dress at home and privacy at the time of sexual intercourse or 
intimate contact between husband and wife. There are some people in the West (of course, a 
minority) who think that it is okay, nay healthy, to stay naked in presence of their children! 

On a collective basis, they also organize nude camps. Why? So that the children will not think 
negatively about their own sexuality. Such parents also feel that there is nothing wrong in 
sexual intercourse in the presence of their children. This behavior is an example of the 
extreme reaction to the rigid Christian morality. To protect their children from associating sex 
with evil, some of these parents go to the extent of completely opening up to their children ! 

Such behavior is not only condemned by those who still abide by religious moral systems, it 
is equally condemned by those who are familiar with child psychology. A sexual manual read 
by millions of Westerners says, "Never involve children in adult sexual activities: militant and 

exhibitionist liberals who try to acclimatize children to the naturalness of sex by letting them 
in any level of their own sex lives probably do at least as much harm as was ever done by the 
prohibitive sex-is-dirty generation. " 

We have quite a few ahadith in which the Prophet and the Imams have emphasized that when 
you engage in sexual intercourse, make sure that no child (or, for that matter, any other 
person) sees you or hears you. Abu Basir quotes Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq as follows, "Be careful 
not to have sex with your wife while a child can see you. The Prophet used to dislike this 
(attitude) very strongly." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 94-95) If a child sees and hears the parents 
engaged in sexual intercourse, he might go through a shocking psychological experience. It 
might also create a problem in his own adult life. The manual quoted earlier says, "Most 
young children are biologically programmed to interpret the sight or sound of adult coition as 
evidence of a violent assault (they are aware of it earlier than you would expect, so don't keep 
babies in the bedroom), and the awareness of mother-father sexual relations is on all counts 
far too explosive a matter to be monkeyed with in the interest of Reichian experiments." 

Islam has laid down clear guide-lines about the privacy of adults. Referring to the children 
who have not yet reached the age of puberty ( bulugh ), the Qur'an says: 

O you who believe! ... Those of you who have not yet reached puberty should ask you for 
permission (before entering your bedroom during) three times: before the dawn prayer, when 
you put off your garments at midday ( for siesta), and after the night prayer these are three 
times of privacy for you. Besides ( these three times), there is no blame on you or them if you 
go to one another (without announcing yourselves). Thus God makes clear to you the signs, 
and God is All-Knowing, Wise. (24:58) 

Then referring to the children who have reached the age of puberty, the Qur'an says: 

When your children reach puberty, they should ask your permission ( at all times 
before entering your bedrooms) just as those who were before them had asked 
permission. Thus God makes clear to you the signs, and God is All-Knowing, Wise. 

These two verses give us the following rules about privacy within and without the family 

1 . There are three times in a day night, early morning and afternoon which are considered as 
times of privacy. 

2. The minor children should be taught that during times of privacy they are not allowed to 
enter the bedroom of their parents or adults without first asking their permission. Obviously, 
by minor we do not mean infants; we mean the children who can understand what is right and 
what is wrong. I would put that at age five and above. The parents will have to ingrain this 

teaching to their minor children gradually. 

3. At other times, the children are free to come and go into the bedroom of their parents 
without asking for their permission. In retrospect, this means that the parents should be 
decently dressed at those other times. 

4. As for the mature children and adults, the Qur'an is clear that they may enter the bedroom 
of their parents or other adults at all times only after asking their permission. 

Chapter Four 


Contraceptives & Abortion 


The question of birth control has created much debate in the Western world. This question is 
related to the basic view of sex. On one hand, if you relate sex to the original sin and equate 
it with evil, and allow sexual intercourse only for the purpose of procreation then, obviously, 
you will be totally opposed to birth control. Allowing birth control would mean allowing sex 
for pleasure. On the other hand, if you consider sex to be a natural act whose purpose is two- 
fold: procreation and/or fulfillment of sexual desire, then you would allow birth control. The 
debate on the use of birth control, moreover, is intertwined with the issue of abortion. 

On the whole, there are three opinions on birth control and abortion. On the one extreme, the 
Roman Catholic Church (See Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and the 
Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day, Vatican City, 1987.) forbids 
birth control as well as abortion; ('Allamah Rizvi comments on the Catholic view as follows: 
"The Vatican seems oblivious of [the] simple difference between underlying reason of a law 
and the law itself. That is why it has totally prohibited use of contraceptives, on the plea that 
it goes against the philosophy of marriage. But does Vatican have the conviction of courage 
to take this ’argument' to its logical end? Is it prepared to forbid intercourse with a pregnant 
wife, or ban marriage of infertile men or women? They should have banned these and other 
examples. ..because they too cannot produce pregnancy. The prelates of the Roman Catholic 
Church all unmarried men are perhaps unaware that lawful satisfaction of sexual urge is in 
itself a valid underlying reason of marriage." See the footnote in al-Mizan, vol. 8 (English 
translation) p. 104.) and on the other extreme, the libertarians and feminists consider birth 
control and abortion as the basic rights of women. In between these two extremes, Islam 
allows birth control but forbids abortion. 

According to the Shi ’ah fiqh, family planning as a private measure to space or regulate the 
family size for health or economic reasons is permissible. Neither is there any Qur'anic verse 
or hadith against birth control, nor is it wajib to have children in marriage. So basically, birth 
control would come under the category of ja'iz, lawful acts. Moreover, we have some ahadith 
(especially on the issue of 'azl, coitus interruptus ) which categorically prove that birth 
control is permissible. Imam 'Ali once said, "One of the two (means) of affluence is to have 
few dependents." ( Nahju'l-Balaghah , saying No., 141; Tuhaf p. 214) Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq 
said that, " [Imam] 'Ali ibnul Husayn (peace be upon him) saw no problem in coitus 
interruptus and he used to recite the verse that 'When your Lord brought forth from the 

children of Adam (i.e., from their loins) their seed. ..'[7: 172] So from whatsoever [seed] Allah 
has taken a covenant, it is sure to be born even if it is [spilled] on a hard rock." ( Wasa'il , vol. 
14, p. 105) The Imam is saying that the creation is in the hand of Allah alone. Whether or not 
we practice birth control, if Allah wills, the child will be conceived. In effect, these ahadith 
are a positive proof that birth control is allowed in Islam. 

* * * 

However, sometimes the issue of birth control is politicized by the imperialists and racist 
regimes; and in such cases, the supreme mujtahid has the right to temporarily forbid the use 
of birth control on the basis of secondary reasons ( hukrn thanawi). For example, if the 
Russian communist government plans to impose or promote birth control in its Muslim 
provinces not because of health reasons but because it fears that the high birth rate among the 
Muslims might offshoot their minority status, then the mujtahid can issue a fatwa saying that 
to practice birth control in Soviet Russia (without any health reasons) would be haram. Or if 
the Israeli government, for example, promotes birth control among the Muslims inside the 
occupied Palestine, then the mufti can prohibit it. Similarly, if the Indian government or the 
Maronite government of Lebanon intends to promote birth control among their Muslim 
citizens, then the supreme mujtahid can prohibit the use of birth control. Such fatwas will 
just be of a temporary nature; once the issue is depoliticized, the primary law will be applied 


Islam allows the preventing of pregnancy, but does not allow its termination. However, the 
problem arises in defining the beginning of pregnancy from the shari'ah point of view. 

Before we look at various methods of birth control, we must first define the beginning of 
pregnancy; and only then will we be able to say which method is permissible and which is 
not. My research has failed to find a discussion in the classical fiqhi books on the shari'ah 
definition of pregnancy. Even the present mujtahids have not discussed it. I intend, by 
putting my trust in Allah, to briefly study the issue in light of the scientific explanations and 
try to arrive at a shar'i definition of pregnancy. 

A few words on the criteria of shar'i definitions is necessary in order to understand the 
purely legal discussion on the definition of pregnancy. 


There are three possible criteria for definitions of things and concepts in fiqh: shar'i, 'urfi and 

(1) If something is clearly defined in the shari'ah, then it is known as the shar'i 
definition; for example, the definition of the word "salat" as the ritual prayer 
consisting of specific actions and recitations. 

(2) 'Urf means conventional, common tradition. 'Urfi definition means a definition 
acceptable to the common people without any scientific or shar'i precision. 

(3) 7/mi definition means a definition presented by science; for example, the definition of 
pure water as H20, a liquid compound consisting of 2 parts of hydrogen and 1 of oxygen, or 
the definition of the beginning of day as the astronomical twilight. (I have used the terms 
" shar'i definition," '"urfi (common) definition," and "'ilmi (scientific) definition" to simplify 
the matter for the non-specialist readers, however, in the terminology of fiqh, the three 
definitions or perceptives are known as " al-’urfu ’sh- shark," " al-'urfu ' l-’amm ," and "al-'urfu 
’l-khass" respectively. The specialist reader may refer to Shaykh Murtaza al-Ansari’s al- 
Makasib, p. 193 for further details on definitions and perceptions in the shark ’ah.) 

If the shark ah defines something, then we must follow the shar'i definition. But if it is silent 
on the definition of certain things, then should we follow the 'ilmi definition or the 'urfi 
definition? Anyone who is familiar with the shark ah will agree with me that in the absence 
of a shar'i definition, one has to follow the 'urfi definition. One has to go by the common 
perception of things, not the scientific perception. For example, when the shark ah says that 
the water for ritual ablution must be pure ( mutlaq ) does it mean scientifically pure? Certainly 
not! Otherwise, the running water in this part of the world is not scientifically pure, it has 
some purifying chemicals in it, for example, fluoride. The shark ah says that such water will 
still be classified as pure unless the common people can sense (without the help of a 
scientific lab) the difference in its color, taste or smell. 

However, there is one case where the ilm definition will prevail: in cases where the common 
people have no way of defining the issue. So in cases where the shark ah is silent and the 'urf 
has no opinion, one has no choice but to follow the 'ilmi ( scientific) definition. The definition 
of the beginning of pregnancy is one such case where the 'ilmi definition would prevail; this 
is so because the shark ah is silent, and it is beyond the common people to define when 
pregnancy begins. Therefore, in this case, we will first see how science describes the 
beginning of pregnancy and then attempt to find secondary proofs from shari 'ah sources to 
arrive at a conclusion. 


The process of conception and pregnancy according to modern science is as follows: After 
the semen is ejaculated into the vagina, the sperms move into the uterus, cross the uterus and 
enter the fallopian tube. The woman's ovum is in the fallopian tube. The sperms travel into 
the fallopian tube in search of the ovum. When the sperms reach the ovum, normally only 
one of them succeeds in penetrating the ovum. This coming together of man's sperm and 
woman's ovum is known as fertilization. After fertilization, the ovum starts to travel towards 
the uterus; and after coming into the uterus, it gets implanted on to the wall of the uterus. 
This process is known as implantation of the fertilized ovum in the womb. 

To determine the shar'i pregnancy, one has to answer the following question: From the 
shari' ah's point of view, does pregnancy begin 

(1) with the entering of semen into the uterus or 

(2) with the fertilization of an ovum by a sperm in the fallopian tube or 

(3) with the implantation of a fertilized ovum in the uterus? 

It is my contention that the combination of three things form the shar'i pregnancy: the sperm, 
the ovum and the uterus. If any two of these things combine without the third, then it is not a 
shar’i pregnancy. As I shall prove below, the shar'i pregnancy begins when the fertilized 
ovum implants itself onto the wall of the uterus. 

* * * 

In my search for a shar'i definition, the closest issue I could come to was the discussion 
under the indemnity for abortion. In Shi'ah fiqh, the indemnity for abortion differs according 
to the various stages of pregnancy. However, what is relevant to our discussion is the 
indemnity for the first four months of pregnancy. The child in its mother's womb during this 
time goes through five stages gradually with distinctive names: 

nutfah, when it is a sperm; 

'alaqah, when it is a blood-like clot; 

muzgah, when it is a lump of flesh; 

'azm, when bones are formed, 

yaksu lahman, when bones are clothed with flesh. 

(This is based on the Qur'an, see 23: 12-14) 

The first stage is very crucial in our search for the beginning of pregnancy. Most ahadith 
simply say that the lowest indemnity is for aborting "a nutfah sperm." ( Wasa'il , vol. 19, pp. 
169, 237-240) At the first look it would seem that according to these ahadith , pregnancy 
starts as soon as the sperm enters into the uterus. This would mean that preventing the semen 
from entering into the uterus is allowed but once it has entered the uterus, then it is forbidden 
to abort it. But this is not so. This would have been correct if the word "nutfah" is taken only 
in its literal sense in which it means "a sperm". However, in fiqh and hadith, the word 
"nutfah" is used both for a sperm as well as for a fertilized ovum. Fortunately this extended 
meaning of the word "nutfah" has been clarified in hadith ; for example, the following hadith 
by Imam Zaynu '1- 'Abidin (a.s.). 

Sa'id bin al-Musayyab asked Imam 'Ali Zaynu '1- 'Abidin about a person who hits a 
pregnant woman with his leg and, as a result, she lost what she had in her womb. The 
Imam said, "If it is a ( nutfah ) sperm, then he must pay her 20 dinars." Sa’id asked, 
"What is the definition of nutfah ?" The Imam said, "It is a substance which, when 
placed in the womb, settles down in it for forty days." 

( Wasa'il , vol. 19, p. 240. Also see p. 238, 242) 

The Imam has used two words to describe the nutfah : (1) wuzi'at fi'r-rahm it is placed in the 
uterus, and (2 )fastaqarrat fihi it settles down in it (i.e., the womb). It seems the Imam is 
emphasizing that the earliest stage of abortion is not when the sperm enters the uterus for the 
first time and just passes through it, rather when it settles down in it. Obviously the "settling 
down of the sperm in the uterus" and "implantation of a fertilized ovum in the uterus" are one 
and the same thing. 

It is needless to say that the distinction between the entrance of sperm into the womb, then 
the fertilization of ovum in the fallopian tube and finally its implantation was not clearly 
known to the scholars of fiqh and the scientists till a century ago. But the word "istiqrar - 
settling down" shows that our 'ulama' were not completely unaware of the fact that the sperm 
goes through various stages before "settling down" in the uterus. If they had been completely 
unaware, then they would not have used the word istiqrar, instead they would have just said 
"the entering of the sperm into the uterus." This difference becomes more clear in the writing 
of the 'ulama' of post-seventh Islamic century. Before the seventh century, we find the 
expression such as "ilqa'u 'n-nutfah" (the entering of the sperm into the uterus). (Sharaya'u 7- 
Islam, p. 1042; an-Nihayah, p. 778. ) But after the seventh century, the 'ulama ' consistently 
began using the expression of "istiqraru ’n-nutfa" (the settling down of the sperm in the 
uterus). ( Tabsirah , p. 216; Sharh Lum'a, vol. 2, p. 444; Tahrir, vol. 2. p. 597.) 

Even the present mujtahids describe the earliest stage of abortion as follows: "aborting a 
sperm after its settling down in the womb ( ba'd istiqrari 'n-nutfah fi ' r-rahm )." (After 
publication of the first edition of this book, it was my great pleasure to see in the late 
Ayatullah al-Khu’i’s lecture a statement which completely concurs with my definition of 
pregnancy. He said. "The criterion in applying the [word] 'pregnant' for a woman is correct 
only after the settling down ( istiqrar ) of the sperm in her womb because just the entering of 
the sperm in her womb does not make her pregnant." See al-Gharawi, Mirza 'Ali, at-Tanqih 
fi Sharhi 'l-'Urwati 'l-Wuthqa (notes of the fiqh lectures of al-Khu'i), vol. 7 (Najaf: al-Adab 
Press, 1988) p. 206.) 

Moreover, the Qur'an has always used the word "haml" to describe pregnancy. (See the 
Qur'an, 19:22; 31:14; 46:15) ''Haml'' means to carry, and it is obvious that a woman carries 
the child in her uterus and not in her fallopian tube. And haml starts with implantation and 
not before it. (A close physician friend of mine pointed out to me that pregnancy in the 
fallopian tube (known as tubal pregnancy) is possible. However, this information does not 

affect our argument because tubal pregnancy is not a normal pregnancy. In the matter of 
definitions, abnormal possibilities are not taken into consideration. More so in abnormalities 
like tubal pregnancy: the fallopian tube is not big enough for development of a fetus, and the 
tubal pregnancy has to be surgically aborted otherwise the mother might end up loosing her 
own life.) 

In conclusion, I can say that the beginning of pregnancy from the shari' ah point of view is 
the stage when the fertilized ovum is implanted ( istiqrar ) onto the lining of the uterus. And, 
therefore, whatever prevents implantation is all owed but whatever aborts an implanted ovum 
is haram. 

A year after reaching my decision in 1986, 1 wrote to Ayatullah al-Khu'i asking for his 
opinion on this issue: "From medical point of view, after the sperm enters the vagina, it 
crosses the uterus and enters the fallopian tube. In this tube, the sperm joins the ovum. Then 
the fertilized ovum enters the uterus and implants itself onto its wall. (Apparently, the 
expression 'istiqraru 'n-nutfafi 'r-rahm' in the writings of Islamic jurists refers to this 
implantation of the fertilized ovum onto the wall of the uterus.) "By keeping in mind what 
has been said above, is it permissible to use a medicine or a device which prevents the 
fertilized ovum from implanting itself onto the wall of the uterus?" Ayatullah al-Khu'i replied 
that: "What is forbidden is to abort the sperm after its settling down, whereas [to prevent 
pregnancy] before that is alright. However, to specify the minor and major premises of both 
these issues is upon the individual himself." (Personal correspondence dated 24 Rabs' II, 

1407 (1987).) 

I think the answer of the Ayatullah needs some explanation for those not familiar with the 
fuqaha 's style. In the first part of his answer, the Ayatullah agreed that what is forbidden in 
relation to birth control is the act of aborting the sperm after it had settled down in the womb. 
In the second part of his answer, he declined to take it upon himself to specify when does 
"the settling down of the sperm" occur: soon after the sperm enters into the uterus or after its 
return from the fallopian tube? (In light of the statement of the late Ayatullah al-Khu'i quoted 
on p. 1 16 of this edition, he also believed that the settling down of the sperm occurs after its 
return from the fallopian tube.) 

Based on the scientific explanation given earlier and the use of the word istiqrar in the hadith 
in relation to the nutfah and the writings of our 'ulama ' on the earliest stage of abortion, I 
consider the implantation of a fertilized ovum onto the wall of the uterus as the beginning of 
pregnancy from the shari' ah point of view. Now we can easily decide on the permissible 
means of birth control. Any method that prevents pregnancy before the implantation of the 
fertilized ovum is allowed, and any method that terminates pregnancy after the implantation 
is not allowed and will be considered as abortion. It is in the light of this criterion that we 
should look at the various methods of birth control that are presently available. 

It was interesting to know that two years after I reached my conclusion on the shari' ah basis, 
Dr. Clifford Grobstein, a leading embryologist of America, published the same conclusion on 

the basis of his scientific research. Dr. Grobstein, whose evenhanded approach has won him 
places on the ethics committees of both the American Fertility Society and the Catholic 
Health Association, published his Science and the Unborn in 1988. He writes, 

"In the last several decades, chiefly as the result of extensive studies of mouse 
development, it has become clear that in the earliest stages of each new generation, 
mammals (including humans) go through a preliminary pre-embryonic phase before 
they become embryos in the usual scientific sense... 

"In mammalian development, which normally occurs within the body of the mother 
(internal gestation), it is now evident that the early changes undergone by the zygote 
first establish multicellularity and, second, prepare for penetration into the maternal 
uterine wall, or implantation. The second step, as we have noted, is the true beginning 
of gestation or pregnancy." 

(Grobstein, Science and the Unborn, p. 58-9.) 


The contraceptive methods during our time work in different ways. We shall examine some 
of the most commonly used contraceptive methods and determine whether they are 
permissible in Islam or not. It must be mentioned that we are studying the permissibility of 
these methods from the shari'ah point of view only. For the medical opinion about the 
reliability or any side-effects of these methods, the reader must consult his or her physician. 

1. Oral Contraceptives: 

Birth control pills prevent conception by inhibiting ovulation. The pills alter hormonal levels 
and suppress the hormonal signal from the gland for the ovaries to release an ovum. These 
pills are taken orally on a precise schedule for 20 or more days during each menstrual cycle. 
Since all such pills inhibit ovulation, there is absolutely no problem in using them. However, 
the individual must consult the physician about possible side-effects. 

There are some pills which work after the intercourse has taken place, for example, the 
'morning-after pill' or the recently developed RU486 pill. Since in our definition, pregnancy 
begins at implantation, use of any pill which may prevent implantation is alright. Therefore, 
the pills like the 'morning-after' and RU486 may be taken after the intercourse BUT not after 
feeling or knowing that pregnancy has already occurred. 

2. Depo-Provera: 

Depo-Provera works exactly like the pills, but instead of taking it orally it is injected once 
every three months. This and other similar contraceptive methods by injection are also 

3. Intrauterine Devices (IUD): 

IUDs are plastic or metal objects, in a variety of shapes, that are implanted inside the uterus. 
The medical experts do not exactly know how IUD works. Presently there are two opinions: 
one says that IUD prevents fertilization; and the other says that it prevents the fertilized 
ovum from implantation onto the uterus. Since the shari' pregnancy begins at implantation, 
there is no problem in using IUD as a birth control device irrespective of the above 
differences among the medical experts. 

4. Barrier Devices: 

All barrier devices prevent the sperm from entering the uterus. This is done by sheathing the 
penis with a condom, or by covering the cervix with a diaphragm, cervical cap, or vaginal 
sponge. The use of spermicidal substances which kill the sperm before reaching the ovum is 
also a barrier device. There is absolutely no problem in using these contraceptives either. 

5. Abstinence During Fertile Period: 

There are three basic procedures to predict ovulation so that sexual intercourse can be 
avoided during the approximately six days of a woman's most fertile monthly phase. These 
three methods are as follows :- 

(a) Ovulation Method: A woman learns to recognize the fertile time by checking the 
difference in the constitution of the cervical mucus discharge. The cervical mucus discharge 
signals the highly fertile period; and thus avoiding sex during the fertile days prevents 

(b) Rhythm Method: A method similar to the first, but it depends on observing the monthly 
cycles for a whole year to determine the fertile days. 

(c) Temperature: In this method, besides keeping a calendar record of her cycle, a woman 
also takes her temperature daily to detect ovulation. She can know her ovulation whenever 
her basal body temperature increases. 

6. Withdrawal (Coitus Interrupts): 

Coitus interruptus means withdrawing the penis just before ejaculation. This was the most 
common method of birth control before the invention of modern devices. 

Muhammad bin Muslim and 'Abdur Rahman bin Abi 'Abdillah Maymun asked Imam Ja’far 
as-Sadiq about withdrawal. The Imam said, "It is up to the man; he may spill it wherever he 
wants." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 105) However, in another hadith, Muhammad bin Muslim 
quotes the fifth or the sixth Imam as follows: "In case of a slave-girl, it is allowed, however, 
in case of a free woman, I dislike it unless it had been so stipulated at the time of 

marriage." ( Wasa'il , vol. 14, p. 106) 

Based on this hadith, the majority of our mujtahids believe that coitus interruptus is allowed 
but makruh without the wife's consent. ( Shark Lum'a, vol. 2, p. 28; al-'Urwah, p. 628; 
Minhaj, vol. 2, p. 267) 

All methods mentioned above do not involve surgical operation and they are also reversible. 
A woman (or man) using these methods can stop using them at anytime in order to have a 

7. Sterilization: 

Sterilization involves surgical operation. 

Sterilization in men, known as vasectomy, means the severing or blocking of the tube in the 
male reproductive tract. This tube or duct passes sperm from the testes to the prostate and 
other reproductive organs. 

Sterilization in women, known as tubal ligation, involves the blocking or severing of the 
fallopian tubes which transport the ovum. 

The permissibility of sterilization depends on whether or not it is reversible. At present, the 
rate of reversibility (40%) is not good enough to make sterilization permissible. Greater 
success may be achieved with improved micro surgical techniques. And until we achieve at 
least 80 percent reversibility, it is difficult to permit sterilization. 

Can a woman practice birth control without the consent of her husband? 

The wife has full right to the use of contraceptives even without the approval of her husband. 
(. Minhaj , vol. 2, p. 276) However, she should not use a method which may come in the way 
of her husband's conjugal rights. For example, she cannot force him to use condom or 
practice coitus interruptus. This rule is based upon the principle that the extent of the 
husband's conjugal rights over his wife is just that she should be sexually available, 
responsive, and cooperative. This right does not extend to that of bearing children for him. 
Bearing children or not is a personal decision of the woman; and therefore, she may use 
contraceptives provided they do not come in the way of her husband's conjugal rights. 

This was the legal aspect of the shard ah. But on a practical level, such decisions are best 
made with mutual consultation between the husband and the wife; otherwise, it could lead to 
misunderstanding and mistrust. The legal aspect is to protect the basic rights of women; but 
in the real world, man and woman must base their life on love, mercy and cooperation as the 
Qur'an says, "And We have created between you love and mercy." 


Islam's approach to the issue of birth control and abortion is very balanced. It allows women 
to prevent pregnancy but forbids them to terminate it. Abortion after the implantation of the 
fertilized ovum in the womb is absolutely forbidden and is considered a crime against the 
law of God, and the fetus. 

From the Islamic point of view, the illegitimacy of aborting a fetus does not depend on the 
issue of whether the fetus has the status of a human being or not. Although Islam does not 
recognize the fetus as a human being, it still gives to it the right of a possible life. 

Abortion has become common in the Western world for various reasons 

1 . sometimes it is a matter of choice between a child and a career; 

2. sometimes it is a matter of choice between a child and a luxurious life-style; 

3. sometimes it is because of the child's illegitimacy; 

4. sometimes it is because of the wrong sex of the child; 

5. sometimes it is because of rape. 

All these justifications are unacceptable from the Islamic point of view. The first two excuses 
reflect the selfish nature of this materialistic society. Allah says, "Do not kill your children 
because of (fear of) poverty. We will provide for you and them. " (6: 152) "Do not kill your 
children for fear of poverty; We will provide for them and you. Surely the killing (of 
children ) is a great error. " (17:31) The third excuse is a by-product of illicit sexual relations 
which Islam strongly condemns. The fourth reason is no less evil and cruel than the pre- 
Islamic Arab custom of burying baby girls alive. 

As for the fifth case involving rape, the lady should use the morning after pill or RU486 
immediately after the sexual assault in order to prevent the possible implantation of a 
fertilized ovum. But if pregnancy is established, then Islam does not allow abortion. In such 
cases, Islam says that why abort the child for the crime of the father? As for the reputation of 
the woman, Islam strongly condemns the people who look down upon the rape victim; 
instead of reviling her, they should be sympathetic to her. 

Modern technology (like ultra sound scan) has made it possible to know whether or not a 
child has a defect long before he is born. Some people justify the abortion of a defective 
fetus. The present mujtahids do not allow such abortions; they say that the parents should 
pray and hope for a normal and healthy child. There are many examples where the prediction 
of the doctors have been proven wrong! In other words, what our mujtahids are saying is that 
take preventative measures before going for pregnancy; but once pregnancy has taken place, 
you are not allowed to abort a fetus even if it is defective. 

The shard ah allows abortion only when doctors declare with reasonable certainty that the 
continuation of pregnancy will endanger the woman's life. This permission is based on the 
principle of the lesser of the two evils known in Islamic legal terminology as the principle of 
al-ahamm wa 'l-muhimm (the more important and the less important). The Prophet said, 

"When two forbidden things come [upon a person] together, then the lesser will be sacrificed 
for the greater." In the present case, one is faced with two forbidden things: either abort the 
unborn child or let a living woman die. Obviously, the latter is greater than the former; 
therefore, abortion is allowed to save the live person. 

Chapter Five 

New Techniques in Human Reproduction 

The birth of the first 'test-tube-baby' in 1978 made headlines all over the world. All the 
world, with the exception of the Vatican, welcomed this new development in human science. 
After all, man is the prime creation of God. Allah has created the universe for man but 
created the man for Himself. During the last five decades, man has taken great leaps in 
science and technology. One of the areas which has amazed us most is the new techniques in 
human reproduction. 

It is interesting to note that even on this issue, Islam stands in the middle of the two extreme 
views: On the one hand, the Roman Catholic Church has categorically condemned in vitro 
fertilization, artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood. On the other hand, the 
libertarians allow these methods no matter whether it is done between married couples or 
others. Islam, as we shall see below, allows the new reproduction technology as long as it is 
done between the married couples. In this chapter, we will examine the new techniques 
designed to help couples in reproduction, and see whether Islam agrees with them or not. 



AIH is used when the husband can produce semen, but his semen is not quite adequate to 
achieve fertilization. The inadequacy of semen can be attributed to low number of active 
sperms or the inability of sperms to swim fast enough towards the ovum. AIH can also be 
used when the husband is suffering from premature ejaculation. 

In AIH, the sperm is obtained from the husband by his masturbation and is then concentrated 
and 'improved' in the laboratory. This semen is then introduced into the wife's cervix at the 
best fertile days. The semen is introduced by an injection. Depending on the regulations of 
each institute, the injection can be carried out by a doctor or a nurse, or by the couple 

As far as the shari'ah is concerned, there is no problem in the Artificial Insemination by 
Husband (AIH) as it is done between a lawfully wedded couple. 

Masturbation is forbidden, then how can the husband's semen be obtained for AIH? It is true 
that masturbation is forbidden in Shi'ah fiqh, but we have also said that masturbation by one's 
spouse is permissible. Therefore, in case of AIH, the wife can masturbate the husband in 

order to obtain the semen. It will be interesting to know how the Roman Catholics intend to 
solve this problem: "The Roman Catholic Church does permit artificial insemination if the 
husband's semen is used and is the product of intercourse with his wife, not masturbation, but 
this usually involves intercourse in a doctor's office and is 'hardly romantic,' Father Wolak 
said." {The Vancouver Sun (March 11, 1987) p. A7.) 


AID is very similar to AIH. However, AID is used in cases where the husband's semen is 
definitely inadequate in quantity or quality. In the Western society, some single women who 
wish to remain unmarried but have a child also use this method to become pregnant. In 
England, two to four thousand births in a year are attributed to AID. 

As far as Islam is concerned, Artificial Insemination by Donor is absolutely forbidden 
because it is by a donor and not by the woman's husband. 

Since it does not involve any sexual relations between the donor and the woman, and 
therefore, cannot be categorized as fornication or adultery some people may ask: how can it 
be haram? The Qur'an clearly says, "Say to the believing women that they... should guard 
their private parts. " (24:30) The divine command to guard the private parts is unqualified; it 
does not say that guard only from illicit sexual intercourse; it says that guard from everything 
except from your spouse. Allah describes the believers as "those who protect their private 
parts except from their spouses.... Therefore, whosoever seeks more beyond that, then they 
are the transgressors. " (23:5) Therefore, even injecting the sperm of another man would 
constitute a transgression and a violation of the command of Allah. (I am indebted for this 
answer to the late Shaykh Muhammad Jawad al-Mughniyyah in his marvelous book al-Fiqh 
'ala 'l-Madhahibi'l-Khamsah, p. 374.) 

What is the status of a child conceived by AID? 

If, God forbid, a woman conceives a child through AID, then the child will not be considered 
an illegitimate child because he was not conceived through illicit sexual relations. Child- 
mother relationship is clear in such cases; as for the child-father relationship, most of our 
present 'ulama clearly state that he will be considered the child of the donor the child will 
inherit him, be a mahram to his wife and children. {Al-Fiqh, p. 375-6; Minhaj, vol. 2, p. 395; 
Tahrir, vol. 2, p. 621-622) 

This decision of the mujtahids is based on a hadith which provides an example very similar 
to the case of a child conceived by AID. This hadith has been narrated by various sources 
from Imam Hasan, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir and Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon 
them all) . A question was put to the Imams that if a woman had intercourse with her 
husband, and then immediately she goes to her slave-girl and has lesbian relations with her in 
which semen of the husband flows from the woman into the vagina of the slave-girl and 
makes her pregnant. What happens in this case? The Imams, after explaining the punishment 

which has to be imposed upon the two women, say that the child born from the slave-girl will 
be related to, and given in the custody of, the owner of the semen. ( Wasa'il , vol. 18, p. 426- 
428.)(This is a very good example of how our 'ulama' solve the modern day problem even 
though they use the same old sources of Islam !) 


The first two methods were for cases where the husband's sperm lacked in quality or 
quantity. IVF is a technique used mostly for women whose fallopian tubes are blocked and 
cannot be remedied by surgical procedures. Also for those who fail to conceive despite 
having normal fallopian tubes and when all possible causes of infertility have been excluded. 
"In vitro" means a test-tube. 

In IVF, one or more ova are removed from the mother through a small syringe and placed in 
a test-tube. Then the sperm of the husband is used to fertilize the ovum. After fertilization, 
the ovum is allowed to develop in the test-tube till the eight-cell stage. Then it is implanted 
into the mother's womb. 

IVF may also be used in cases where the husband's semen contains so few sperms that it 
becomes difficult for them to fertilize an ovum in the fallopian tube. By IVF, sperm of such a 
person is used to fertilize the ovum in a test-tube. As far as the shari'ah is concerned, in vitro 
fertilization is allowed as long as it be being done between a married couple. 


It will be of interest to know that our mujtahids are keeping themselves ahead of scientific 
technology in deciding the religious and ethical issues about human reproduction. While 
talking about artificial insemination, they also talk of the following possibilities: 

1 . It is permissible to invent an artificially made ovum, fertilize it with a man's sperm and let 
the child develop in an artificial womb . In this case, the child will be fully related to the 
father. At most, he or she will be a child without a biological mother. 

2. It is permissible to invent an artificially made sperm and inseminate it into a woman's 
womb. Such a child will be fully related to the mother. At most he or she will be a child 
without a biological father. 

3. It is permissible to take an artificially made ovum and an artificially made sperm, and then 
fertilize and develop the two in an artificial womb. Such a child will be related to no one! 

4. If a twin boy and girl are born through the above procedures, then in the first two cases 
they will be normal siblings for example, they cannot marry one another but in the third case, 
they will not even be considered as siblings because they do not have a parent. (The first 
example has been mentioned by both Ayatullahs al-Khu’i and al-Khumayni, whereas the 

other three arc mentioned by the latter only. See Minhaj, vol. 2. p. 395 and Tahrir vol. 2, p 


Surrogate motherhood is a by-product of the artificial insemination. It has created great 
controversy in the legal and ethical circles around the world, especially so after the baby 'M' 
case of 1987. 

Surrogate motherhood means that a woman allows a fertilized ovum of another couple to be 
injected into her womb. Then she carries the child to its full term for the other couple. This 
can be done free or in exchange for some money as was the case in baby M's birth. This 
procedure of human reproduction is adopted when a woman has a problem in carrying her 
child to its full term. From the shari' ah point of view, surrogate motherhood as portrayed 
above is not allowed because it involves the insertion of a sperm of another person into the 
woman's uterus. This goes against the verse of the Qur'an which says that the believing 
women should guard their private parts except from their spouses. 

* * * 

There are, however, certain procedures in Islamic marriage system which would allow some 
form of surrogate motherhood. For example, if a woman is having problems in carrying her 
husband's child to its full term, then the husband may marry another woman (on a temporary 
or permanent basis) and then an ovum of the first wife fertilized by the husband's sperm can 
be injected into the womb of the second wife with her approval. 

To which of the two wives will the child belong? Does it belong to the genetic mother (the 
first wife) or the biological mother (the second wife)? According to Ayatullah al-Khumayni 
it depends on the age of fetus. If it was inseminated in the womb of the second wife after four 
months, then it belongs to the first wife the second wife is just a receptacle. If it was 
inseminated before its fourth month, then it is difficult to say that the child belongs to the 
first wife. ( Tahrir , vol. 2, p. 623) 

However, there is another way of looking at this relationship. I have already talked about the 
'urfi and shari ' definitions earlier. In the present case, the common people have a perception 
about child-mother relationship. The 'urfi would say that the woman who "gives birth" is the 
mother. So based on this 'urfi perception, I would say that the child belongs to the biological 
mother, the second wife irrespective of its age at the time of insemination. The child will be 
mahram to her other children and will also inherit from her. 

As for the relationship between the child and the first wife, I would say that although she is 
not a biological mother, but her status as a genetic mother places her above a riza 'i mother. 

(A riza'i mother is a woman who did not give birth to the child but breast-fed him or her.) 
Based on this relationship, the child will be mahram to all the children of the first wife even 

if they be from a different father; however, he or she will not inherit from her because the 
right of inheritance is based on uterine relationship. 


What you will read below are issues being discussed for the first time from the shari'ah point 
of view. These are the results of my initial interpretation. I hope this will stimulate a fruitful 
discussion among our mujtahids. 


In most cases of artificial insemination, three ova are removed from the woman's body and 
all three are fertilized by the husband's sperms. But only one is used for reimplantation into 
the woman's womb. And if it fails in the first attempt, then the other fertilized ova are used. 
The question which has created much controversy is about the extra and unwanted fertilized 
ovum. What should be done with the extra fertilized ovum? Must it be used? Can it be 

According to the shari'ah , there should be no problem in destroying the extra fertilized 
ovum. It will not constitute abortion because, firstly, abortion only takes place after the 
implantation of the fertilized ovum in the womb and, secondly, abortion takes place in a 
woman's body not in a test-tube or a laboratory dish! 


Another by-product of the new technology is the so-called sperm bank where sperms and 
fertilized ovum are preserved in frozen state. There are four questions which must be 
addressed here. 

Firstly: Is man allowed to preserve his sperms in frozen state? Similarly, are married couples 
allowed to preserve their fertilized ova for future use? I can think of no shari'ah basis for 
prohibiting such an act. It is no different from the act in which a person banks or donates his 

Secondly: Is it permissible to sell the sperms or the fertilized ova? One cannot sell his sperms 
to be injected into the uterus of another woman; he may only sell it to a scientific institution 
for medical research. Similarly, a couple cannot sell their fertilized ova to be implanted into 
the womb of another woman. 

Thirdly: Can a woman use the preserved fertilized ovum or sperms of her husband after the 
latter has died? Apparently, there is nothing to prevent her from doing so. The frozen ovum 
(fertilized by her husband's sperm) is her property and therefore she can use it. The child 
will, of course, be legitimate ! However, this would be allowed only if the woman does not 
marry another person after her husband's death. Since Islam does not allow a woman to have 
more than one husband at a time, the second husband will take the place of the first in the 

verse which says, protect their private parts except from their spouses." (23: 5) 

Fourthly: Can a woman use the fertilized ovum after she has been divorced from her 
husband? This is allowed only if she has not married another person. As soon as she marries 
another person, she cannot use the ovum fertilized with the sperm of her previous husband. 
The basis of this view is the same as mentioned above. 

Appendix 1 

Sources ofthe Shari'ah 

In Islamic system, the issue of sexual morality comes under the shari'ah, the laws of Islam. 
Therefore it seems appropriate to explain the sources of the shari'ah from our point of view. 
The primary sources of the Islamic laws are two things: the Qur'an and the sunnah. By the 
sunnah, we mean the sayings, actions and silent approval of the Prophet and the Ahlu'l-bayt. 

The Qur'an describes only the basic rules of the shari’ah, and the sunnah elaborates upon 
them. The Qur'an introduces the Prophet of Islam as follows: "He (Allah) raised up among 
the common people a Messenger from among themselves to recite to them His revelations, to 
purify them, and to teach them the Book and wisdom; "(62:2) "And We have revealed to you 
( O Muhammad) the Reminder (i.e., the Qur'an) so that you may clarify to the people what 
has been revealed to them, and so that they may reflect. " (16: 44) These two verses definitely 
prove that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not just a 'mail-man' whose only job 
was to deliver the Book to us. He was a teacher and a commentator of the Qur'an. Even his 
actions are a source of guidance for us: "You have a good example in Allah 's Messenger for 
whosoever hopes for God and the last day, and remembers God oft. " (33:21) The obedience 
tot he Prophet has been considers as the proof of loving Allah: "Say (O Muhammad): 'If you 
love Allah, then follow me; ( if you do so,) Allah will love you and forgive you your 
sins. '" (3:31) To show the importance of obeying the Prophet, the Qur'an further says, 
"Whoever obeys the Messenger has surely obeyed Allah. " (4:80) 

The Muslims who lived during the Prophet's time had easy access to his sunnah. What about 
use who were born hundreds of years after the Prophet's death? Well, the Muslims of the 
early days realized the importance of the Prophet's sunnah and started preserving his sayings 
in books of hadith. Even the actions of the Prophet, observed by the companions, were 
preserved in writing. But this process of preserving the sunnah of the Prophet was not 
immune from mistakes and even forgery. Many sayings were invented and wrongfully 
attributed to the Prophet during the early period of the Islamic history. Therefore, it is 
absolutely necessary to find an authentic and, at the same time, informed source for the 
sunnah of the Prophet. 

When you look at the Muslims of the Prophet's days, you can find no one who might be more 
knowledgeable, informed, reliable and closer to the Prophet than the Ahlu'l-bayt, the family 
of the Prophet. After all, it is the Qur'an which testifies to their spiritual purity of highest 
category by saying, "Verily Allah intends to purify you, O the Ahlu'l-bayt, a thorough 
purification. " (33:33) Combine this verse about Ahlu'l-bayfs purity with the following: "It is 
the holy Qur'an in a preserved tablet,, none shall touch it but the purified ones. " (56:79) This 

shows that the Ahlu'l-bayt could understand the Qur'an better than any other follower of 
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allay says, " Say ( O Muhammad ), 7 do not ask 
from you any reward ( for bringing the message to you ) except to love my near ones. (42:23) 
See that it is Allah who is commanding His messenger to ask the people to love his family. If 
they were not truthful, reliable, and worthy of following, would Allah command us to love 

These few verses are enough to show that the best commentators of the Qur'an and the most 
authentic source for the Prophet's sunnah are the Imams of Ahlu'l-bayt. The Prophet himself 
said, "I am leaving among you two worthy things. As long as you hold on to them both, you 
will never be led astray after me. One of these two is greater than the other: the Book of 
Allah (which is a rope hanging from the heaven to the earth) and my descendants, my Ahlu'l- 
bayt. These two things will not separate from each other until they come to me at the 
(fountain of) Kauthar (in the hereafter). Therefore, see how you recompense me by the way 
you deal with them." 

This is not the place to discuss about the authenticity of the above hadith, but it will suffice 
to quote Ibn Hajar al-Makki, a famous anti-Shi'ah polemicist. After recording this hadith 
from various companions who had heard it from the Prophet at various places and times, Ibn 
Hajar says, "And there is no contradiction in this [numerous reports] since there was nothing 
to prevent the Prophet from repeating [this statement] at those various places because of the 
importance of the holy Book and the pure Family." (Ibn Hajar al-Makki, as-Sawa'iqu 7- 
Muhriqah, chapter 11 section 1. Also see S. Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, Imamat, Sharafu 'd-Din al- 
Musawi, The Right Path, and S.M.H. Jafri, The Origin and Early Development ofShi'a 

We can conclude from these verses and the hadith mentioned above that the Ahlu'l-bayt are 
the most authentic and the best source for the sunnah, and therefore we prefer them to all 
other sources. Whenever we quote a hadith from the Imams of Ahlu'l-bayt, it is not actually 
from themselves, instead it is the hadith of the Prophet which they have preserved as the true 
successors of the last messenger of God. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: "My hadith is the 
hadith of my father, the hadith of my father is that of my grandfather, the hadith of my 
grandfather is that of al-Husayn [bin ' Ali] , the hadith of al-Husayn is that of al-Hasan [bin 
' Ali] , the hadith of al-Hasan is that of Amiru '1-mu'mimin ['Ali bin Abi Talib] (a.s.), the 
hadith of Amiru'l-mu'minin is that of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w), and the hadith of the 
Messenger is a statement of Allah, the Almighty, the Great." (In Shi'ah sources, see al- 
Kulayni, Usulu 'l-Kafi, book 2 chapter 17, hadith No. 14; in Sunni sources, see ash-Sha’rani, 
at-Tabaqatu '1-Kubra, vol. 1, p. 28; Abu Nu’aym, Hilyatu '1-Awliya', vol. 3. p. 193, 197.) 

Ijtihad & Taqlid: After the twelfth Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) went into occultation, the 
responsibility of guiding the Shi'ahs in the shark ah matters came upon the mujtahids, the 
religious scholars specializing in Islamic laws. The mujtahids derive the Islamic laws from 
the two sources mentioned above. This may sound very simple, but it is not so. They do not 
just open the Qur'an and the books of hadith, and start giving fatwas . They must first of all 

come up with a methodology of ijtihad (discussed in a subject known as usulu ' l-fiqh ). 

In their methodology, the mujtahids decide how to study the Qur'anic verses and the ahaclith. 
Should they take the literal meanings only? Have they to find out which verse came first and 
which came second on the same issue? Will the latter verse abrogate the former, or will it 
just put some limitations on it? Is every hadith to be considered authentic? If not, what are 
the means of verifying the authenticity of a given hadithl If they come up on two authentic 
but contradictory ahadith on a single issue, what recourse should be followed? All such 
problems have to be solved while designing the methodology of ijtihad, and only then can a 
mujtahid correctly and responsibly derive a law from the Qur'an and the sunnah. 

It is obvious that not all have the ability or the time to specialize in the shard ah laws; and 
therefore, for such people it is necessary to follow a mujtahid in the matters of shard ah. This 
"following" is known as taqlid. 

Appendix II 


The Major Ablution 
(GhuslJ anabat) 

(This appendix has been adopted from Chapter Four of my Ritual & Spiritual Purity (1989) 
since it deals with the ablution related to sexual act.) 


"J anabat" is a ritual impurity caused by the discharge of semen or by sexual intercourse; and 
the person on whom ghusl janabat becomes wajib is known as "junub". The Qur'an says: 

O you who believe! Do not go near prayers (salat) when you are... junub until you 
have washed yourselves. (4:43) O you who believe! When you stand up for prayers 
(salat), . . . if you are junub, then purify (yourselves). (5:6) 


There are two causes of janabat: 

1. Discharge of semen. It does not make any difference whether this discharge is while 
awake or in a wet-dream, slight or profuse, intentionally or otherwise, in lawful way or 
unlawful (e.g., masturbation). In all these cases ghusl janabat becomes obligatory (wajib). 

If a liquid comes out from a man and he does not know whether or not it is semen, then he 
should look for the following three signs: (1) emission with passion; (2) spurting discharge; 
(3) feeling relaxed after the discharge. If these signs are found together on him, then he 
should consider the liquid as semen, otherwise not. 

If a secretion is discharged from a woman, then it is precautionary wajib for her to do ghusl 
janabat provided it came with sexual passion and she felt relaxed after it. But if the secretion 
comes without the sexual passion or without the feeling of relaxation after the discharge, 
then it is not najis and therefore ghusl is not wajib upon her. 

2. Sexual Intercourse. It does not make any difference whether the intercourse was lawful 
or unlawful, and with or without discharge of semen. In Islamic laws, sexual intercourse is 
defined as the penetration of the glans into the vagina or anus of the woman. That is, for 
ghusl janabat to become wajib it is not necessary that full penetration or discharge of semen 
should take place. In case of sexual intercourse, ghusl janabat becomes wajib on both the 

man and the woman. 


There are certain things in Islam which are so sacred that a Muslim cannot come into contact 
with them unless he or she is ritually pure and clean. Based on this concept of sacredness, a 
junub is forbidden from coming into contact, in various ways, with two of the most sacred 
things in Islam: the Qur'an and the mosque. 

The following four acts are haram for the junub before performing the ghusl. Two are related 
to the Qur'an and the other two are related to mosques. 

1. Touching the writing of the Qur'an, the names and attributes of Allah, the names of the 
Prophet, the Imams and Fatimah (the daughter of the Prophet). This has already been 
explained on page 48 of this book. 

2. Reciting the verses of the Qur'an in which sajdah ( prostration ) is wajib. These verses are: 
verse 15 of chapter 32; verse 15 of chapter 41; verse 62 of chapter 53; and verse 19 of 
chapter 96. It is better not to recite even a single verse from these chapters. 

3. Entering or staying in the mosque. The Qur'an says, "O you who believe!. ..Nor (are you 
allowed to enter the masjid) if you are junub until you have washed yourself except passing 
through. "(4:43) Based on this verse and relevant ahadith, the mujtahids have concluded that 
a junub is totally forbidden from staying in the mosque. 

Of course, as the verse says, one can pass through the mosques (by entering from one door 
and leaving from the other). However, this exception of passing through does not apply to 
the following places: the Masjidu'l-Haram (the Sacred Mosque at Mecca) Masjidu' n-Nabi 
(the Mosque of the Prophet at Medina), and shrines of the Imams a junub cannot even pass 
through them. Jamil asked Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) whether or not a junub can sit in 
mosques? The Imam said, "No! But he may pass through all of them except the Sacred 
Mosque (at Mecca) and the Prophet’s Mosque (at Medina)." ( Wasa'il , vol. 1, p. 485.) Bakr 
bin Muhammad narrates that once he and his friends were going towards the house of Imam 
Ja’far as-Sadiq, when they met Abu Basir in the way. When Abu Basir came to know that 
they were going to visit the Imam, he joined them. As Bakr and his friends came to know 
later on, Abu Basir was in the state of janabat at that time. When they entered the house of 
the Imam and greeted him, the Imam looked towards Abu Basir and said, "O Abu Basir! Do 
not you know that a junub person should not enter the houses of the prophets?" ( Wasa'il vol 
1, p. 489. ) Abu Basir himself has also narrated this incident and quotes the Imam as follows: 
"Do not you know that a junub should not enter the houses of the prophets and of their 
children..." (Wasa'il vol 1, p. 489-490. ) 

4. Leaving something in or taking it out from a mosque. 

* * * 

The following things are makruh (disliked) for the junub: 

1. Eating and drinking is makruh for a junub except after doing wudu' or gargling or rinsing 
the nose. 

2. Reciting more than seven verses from the Qur'an. This applies to other than the four 
chapters with wajib sajdah mentioned above. 

3. Touching the cover of the Qur'an. 

4. Sleeping except after doing wudu'. 


1 . Salat (prayers) except salatu 'l-mayyit (the prayer for a dead Muslim) which can be 
performed even in the state of janabat. 

2. Wajib tawaf( the circumambulation of the Ka'bah in hajj). Allah says, "And We assigned 
Ibrahim and Isma'il to purify My House for the circumambulators (of the Ka'bah). .."(2: 125; 
22:26) It is not difficult to infer that if the House is to be cleaned and purified for tawaf, then 
the people who will be doing the tawaf must also be clean and pure. See also section H in 

3. Fasting. If someone knowingly remains junub until dawn in Ramadan, his fasting will 
become invalid ( batil ). 


Ghusl is a ritual bath; it involves washing of the whole body. There are two methods of 
performing ghusl. One is known as ghusl tartibi, and the other is known as ghusl irtimasi. 

1. Ghusl Tartibi: 

"Ghusl tartibi" means an ordinal bath, performed in three stages. 

After washing away the najasat (e.g., semen or blood) from the body and after niyyat, the 
body has to be washed in three stages: First, head down to the neck; then the right side of the 
body from the shoulder down to the foot; and lastly, the left side of the body. 

Each part should be washed thoroughly in such a way that the water reaches the skin. Special 
care should be taken while washing the head; the hair should be combed (e.g., with your 
fingers) so that water reached the hair-roots. While washing the right side of the body, some 
part of the left side must be washed too, and also, while washing the left side of the body, 
some part of the right side must be washed. 

2. Ghusl Irtimasi: 

"Ghusl irtimasi " means a bath involving immersion of the whole body in the water. It is 
needless to say that such a ghusl can only be done in a body of water, e.g., a pool, river, lake 

or sea. 

After washing away the semen or blood from the body and after niyyat, the whole body 
should be completely immersed in the water all at once, not gradually. One has to make sure 
that the water reaches all parts of the body, including hair and the skin under it. 

However, ghusl tartibi is preferred to ghusl irtimasi. 


What has been mentioned above are the wajib acts of ghusl; here we shall explain the things 
which are recommendable (mustahab, sunnat) during the ghusl. These recommendable acts 
are five: 

1. Washing both hands up to the elbows three times before the ghusl. 

2. Gargling three times. 

3. Wiping the hands on the whole body to ensure that every part has been thoroughly 

4. Combing the hair with the fingers to ensure that the water reaches the hair-roots. 

5. (For men only) Doing istibra' before ghusl janabat. Istibra', in the present context, means 
"urinating." The benefit of istibra': If a liquid comes out of one's penis after completing the 
ghusl, and he doubts whether it is semen or urine, then should he repeat the ghusl or not? If 
he had done istibra ' before the ghusl, then he can assume that the liquid is urine he will not 
have to repeat the ghusl; he just has to do wudu for his salat. But, on the other hand, if he had 
not done istibra' before the ghusl, then he has to assume that it is the remnant of semen he 
will have to do the ghusl again. 

'Ubaydullah al-Halabi narrates that someone asked Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) about a 
man who performs ghusl and then finds some (doubtful) drops (on his penis) while he had 
already urinated before performing the ghusl. (That is, should he consider the drops as urine 
or semen?) The Imam said, "He will just have to do wudu (for hi s salat). But if he had not 
passed urine before the ghusl, then he must repeat the ghusl." ( Wasa'il , vol. 1, p. 517. ) 

This rule of istibra ' applies only to men. Sulayman bin Khalid asked Imam Muhammad al- 
Baqir (a.s.) about a man who became ritually impure because of sexual intercourse and then 
performed ghusl without urinating. Then some drops came out of him . The Imam said, "He 
must repeat the ghusl." Sulayman: "What if similar drops come out of a woman after she has 
performed ghusl?" The Imam said, "She does not have to repeat the ghusl . " Sulayman: 
"What is the difference between the two?" The Imam said, "(A woman does not have to 
repeat ghusl janabat) because what comes out of her is certainly from the (remnants of the) 
discharge of man." ( Wasa'il , vol. 1, p. 482.) 


This is a summary of ghusl. The recommendable acts of ghusl are in italics type-face. 

1. Remove the najasat (semen, blood) from the body. 

2. Niyyat. 

3. Wash the hands up to the elbows three time. 

4. Gargle three times. 

5. Wash the head down to the neck; wipe your hand on the face and neck, and comb the hair 
with your fingers. 

6. Wash the right side of your body from the shoulders down to the feet; include some part of 
the left side also. While washing, wipe the body with your hand. 

7. Wash the left side of your body from the shoulders down to the feet; include some part of 
the right side also. While washing, wipe the body with your hand. 

Glossary of Frequently Used Terms 

HARAM: forbidden, prohibited. It is necessary to abstain from the acts which are haram. 

If someone performs a haram act, he will be punished either by the Islamic court or in the 
hereafter or both. 

IHTIYAT WAJIB: precautionarily wajib. Its significance is the same as that of wajib with 
the difference that whenever a mujtahid says that "it is precautionarily obligatory," his 
followers have the option of leaving his taqlid (following) in that particular problem and 
following the fatwa of the second best mujtahid provided the latter has a different opinion. 

JA'IZ, HALAL, MUBAH: permitted, allowed, lawful, legal. The acts or things which are 
permitted and lawful. There no reward for performing it nor any punishment for neglecting 

MARJA' (pi. MARAJI'): literally, it means the point of reference. It is used to describe the 
high ranking mujtahids who are a point of reference for the people. 

MAKRUH: reprehensible, disliked, discouraged: It is used for the acts which are disliked 
but not haram. If one does a makruh act, he will not be punished; however, if he refrains 
from it, then he will be rewarded 

MUJTAHID: or FAQIH (pi. FUQAHA'): a jurist, a religious scholar who is an expert of 
Islamic laws, the shari'ah. Usually it is used for the high ranking mujtahids who are followed 
by the people. 

SUNNAT or MUSTAHAB: recommended, desirable, better. It refers to the acts which 
are recommended but not wajib . If one neglects them, he will not be punished; however, if 
one performs them, he will be rewarded. 

WAJIB: obligatory, necessary, incumbent. An act which must be performed. One will be 
punished for neglecting a wajib act, e.g., the daily prayers. 

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